Ernest Scott

This etext was produced by Col Choat

This etext was produced by Col Choat


To my friend T.B.E.


All Sydney people, and most of those who have visited the city, have
seen the tall monument to Laperouse overlooking Botany Bay. Many have
perhaps read a little about him, and know the story of his surprising
appearance in this harbour six days after the arrival of Governor
Phillip with the First Fleet. One can hardy look at the obelisk, and at
the tomb of Pere Receveur near by, without picturing the departure of
the French ships after bidding farewell to the English officers and
colonists. Sitting at the edge of the cliff, one can follow Laperouse
out to sea, with the eye of imagination, until sails, poops and hulls
diminish to the view and disappear below the hazy-blue horizon. We may
be sure that some of Governor Phillip's people watched the sailing, and
the lessening, and the melting away of the vessels, from just about the
same place, one hundred and twenty four years ago. What they saw, and
what we can imagine, was really the end of a romantic career, and the
beginning of a mystery of the sea which even yet has not lost its

The story of that life is surely worth telling, and, we trust, worth
reading; for it is that of a good, brave and high-minded man, a great
sailor, and a true gentleman. The author has put into these few pages
what he has gleaned from many volumes, some of them stout, heavy and
dingy tomes, though delightful enough to "those who like that
sort of thing." He hopes that the book may for many readers touch with
new meaning those old weatherworn stones at Botany Bay, and make the
personality of Laperouse live again for such as nourish an interest in
Australian history.


(Not included in etext)

Portrait of Laperouse, with Autograph
Laperouse's Coat of Arms
The Laperouse Family
Comte de Fleurieu
Louis XVI Giving Instructions to Laperouse
Australia as known athe time of Laperouse's visit
Chart of Laperouse's Voyage in the Pacific
Massacre of Captain de Langle's Party
Tomb of Pere Receveur
Monument to Laperouse at Botany Bay
Admiral Dentrecasteaux
Map of Vanikoro Island
Relics of Laperouse

Life of Laperouse

Chapter I.


Jean-Francois Galaup, Comte De Laperouse, was born at Albi, on August
23, 1741. His birthplace is the chief town in the Department of Tarn,
lying at the centre of the fruitful province of Languedoc, in the south
of France. It boasts a fine old Gothic cathedral, enriched with much
noble carving and brilliant fresco painting; and its history gives it
some importance in the lurid and exciting annals of France. From its
name was derived that of a religious sect, the Albigeois, who professed
doctrines condemned as heretical and endured severe persecution during
the thirteenth century.

But among all the many thousands of men who have been born, and have
lived, and died in the old houses of the venerable city, none, not even
among its bishops and counts, has borne a name which lives in the
memory of mankind as does that of the navigator, Laperouse. The sturdy
farmers of the fat and fertile plain which is the granary of France,
who drive in to Albi on market days, the patient peasants of the
fields, and the simple artisans who ply their primitive trades under
the shadow of the dark-red walls of St. Cecile, know few details,
perhaps, about the sailor who sank beneath the waters of the Pacific
so many years ago. Yet very many of them have heard of
Laperouse, and are familiar with his monument cast in bronze in the
public square of Albi. They speak his name respectfully as that of one
who grew up among their ancestors, who trod their streets, sat in their
cathedral, won great fame, and met his death under the strange,
distant, southern stars.

His family had for five hundred years been settled, prominent and
prosperous, on estates in the valley of the Tarn. In the middle of the
fifteenth century a Galaup held distinguished office among the citizens
of Albi, and several later ancestors are mentioned honourably in its
records. The father of the navigator, Victor Joseph de Galaup,
succeeded to property which maintained him in a position of influence
and affluence among his neighbours. He married Marguerite de
Resseguier, a woman long remembered in the district for her qualities
of manner and mind. She exercised a strong influence over her
adventurous but affectionate son; and a letter written to her by him at
an interesting crisis of his life, testifies to his eager desire to
conform to his mother's wishes even in a matter that wrenched his
heart, and after years of service in the Navy had taken him far and
kept him long from her kind, concerning eyes.

Jean-Francois derived the name by which he is known in history from the
estate of Peyrouse, one of the possessions of his family. But he
dropped the "y" when assuming the designation, and invariably
spelt the name "Laperouse," as one word. Inasmuch as the final
authority on the spelling of a personal name is that of the individual
who owns it, there can be no doubt that we ought always to spell this
name "Laperouse," as, in fact, successors in the family who have borne
it have done; though in nearly all books, French as well as English, it
is spelt "La Perouse." In the little volume now in the reader's hands,
the example of Laperouse himself has been followed.

On this point it may be remarked concerning another navigator who was
engaged in Australian exploration, that we may lose touch with an
interesting historical fact by not observing the correct form of a
name. On maps of Tasmania appears "D'Entrecasteaux Channel." It was
named by and after Admiral Bruny Dentrecasteaux, who as commander of
the RECHERCHE and ESPERANCE visited Australian waters. We shall have
something to say about his expedition towards the close of the book.
Now, Dentrecasteaux sailed from France in 1791, while the Revolution
was raging. All titles had been abolished by a decree of the National
Assembly on July 19th, 1790. When he made this voyage, therefore, the
Admiral was not Bruny D'Entrecasteaux, a form which implied a
territorial titular distinction; but simply Citizen Dentrecasteaux. The
name is so spelt in the contemporary histories of his expedition
written by Rossel and Labillardiere. It would not have been likely to
be spelt in any other way by a French officer at the time. Thus,
the Marquis de la Fayette became simply Lafayette, and so with all
other bearers of titles in France. Consequently we should, by observing
this little difference, remind ourselves of Dentrecasteaux' period and

That, however, is by the way, and our main concern for the present is
with Laperouse.

As a boy, Jean-Francois developed a love for books of voyages, and
dreamt, as a boy will, of adventures that he would enjoy when he grew
to manhood. A relative tells us that his imagination was enkindled by
reading of the recent discoveries of Anson. As he grew up, and himself
sailed the ocean in command of great ships, he continued to read all
the voyaging literature he could procure. The writings of Byron,
Carteret, Wallis, Louis de Bougainville, "and above all Cook," are
mentioned as those of his heroes. He "burned to follow in their

It will be observed that, with one exception, the navigators who are
especially described by one of his own family as having influenced the
bent of Laperouse were Englishmen. He did not, of course, read all of
their works in his boyhood, because some of them were published after
he had embraced a naval career. But we note them in this place, as the
guiding stars by which he shaped his course. He must have been a young
man, already on the way to distinction as an officer, when he came
under the spell of Cook. "And above all Cook," says his relative. To
the end of his life, down to the final days of his very last
voyage, Laperouse revered the name of Cook. Every Australian reader
will like him the better for that. Not many months before his own life
ended in tragedy and mystery, he visited the island where the great
English sailor was slain. When he reflected on the achievements of that
wonderful career, he sat down in his cabin and wrote in his Journal the
passage of which the following is a translation. It is given here out
of its chronological order, but we are dealing with the influences that
made Laperouse what he was, and we can see from these sincere and
feeling words, what Cook meant to him:

"Full of admiration and of respect as I am for the memory of that great
man, he will always be in my eyes the first of navigators. It is he who
has determined the precise position of these islands, who has explored
their shores, who has made known the manners, customs and religion of
the inhabitants, and who has paid with his blood for all the light
which we have to-day concerning these peoples. I would call him the
Christopher Columbus of these countries, of the coast of Alaska, and of
nearly all the isles of the South Seas. Chance might enable the most
ignorant man to discover islands, but it belongs only to great men like
him to leave nothing more to be done regarding the coasts they have
found. Navigators, philosophers, physicians, all find in his Voyages
interesting and useful things which were the object of his concern. All
men, especially all navigators, owe a tribute of praise to his memory.
How could one neglect to pay it at the moment of coming upon the
group of islands where he finished so unfortunately his career?"

We can well understand that a lad whose head was full of thoughts of
voyaging and adventure, was not, as a schoolboy, very tame and easy to
manage. He is described as having been ardent, impetuous, and rather
stubborn. But there is more than one kind of stubbornness. There is the
stupid stubbornness of the mule, and the fixed, firm will of the
intelligent being. We can perceive quite well what is meant in this
case. On the other hand, he was affectionate, quick and clever. He
longed for the sea; and his father, observing his decided inclination,
allowed him to choose the profession he desired.

It may well have seemed to the parents of Laperouse at this time that
fine prospects lay before a gallant young gentleman who should enter
the Marine. There was for the moment peace between France and England.
A truce had been made by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. But
everybody knew that there would be war again soon. Both countries were
struggling for the mastery in India and in North America. The sense of
rivalry was strong. Jealousies were fierce on both sides. In India, the
French power was wielded, and ever more and more extended, by the
brilliant Governor Dupleix; whilst in the British possessions the
rising influence was that of the dashing, audacious Clive. In North
America the French were scheming to push their dominion down the
Ohio-Mississippi Valley from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, in
the rear of the line of British colonies planted on the seaboard from
the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Florida. The colonists were determined to
prevent them; and a young man named George Washington, who afterwards
became very famous, first rose into prominence in a series of tough
struggles to thwart the French designs. The points of collision between
the two nations were so sharp, feeling on either side was so bitter,
the contending interests were so incapable of being reconciled, that it
was plain to all that another great war was bound to break out, and
that sea power would play a very important part in the issue. The young
Laperouse wanted to go to sea, and his father wanted him to distinguish
himself and confer lustre on his name. The choice of a calling for him,
therefore, suited all the parties concerned.

He was a boy of fifteen when, in November, 1756, he entered the Marine
service as a royal cadet. He had not long to wait before tasting
"delight of battle," for the expected war was declared in May, and
before he was much older he was in the thick of it.

Chapter II.


Laperouse first obtained employment in the French navy in the CELEBRE,
from March to November, 1757. From this date until his death,
thirty-one years later, he was almost continuously engaged, during
peace and war, in the maritime service of his country. The official
list of his appointments contains only one blank year, 1764. He had
then experienced close upon seven years of continuous sea fighting and
had served in as many ships: the CELEBRE, the POMONE, the ZEPHIR, the
CERF, the FORMIDABLE, the ROBUSTE, and the SIX CORPS. But the peace of
Paris was signed in the early part of 1763. After that, having been
promoted to the rank of ensign, he had a rest.

It was not a popular peace on either side. In Paris there was a current
phrase, "BETE COMME LA PAIX," stupid as the peace. In England, the
great Pitt was so indignant on account of its conditions that, all
swollen and pinched with gout as he was, he had himself carried to the
House of Commons, his limbs blanketted in bandages and his face
contorted with pain, and, leaning upon a crutch, denounced it in a
speech lasting three hours and forty minutes. The people cheered him to
the echo when he came out to his carriage, and the vote favourable to
the terms of the treaty was carried by wholesale corruption. But
all the same, Great Britain did very well out of it, and both countries
--though neither was satisfied--were for the time being tired of war.

For Laperouse the seven years had been full of excitement. The most
memorable engagement in which he took part was a very celebrated one,
in November, 1759. A stirring ballad has been written about it by Henry

"In seventeen hundred and fifty-nine
When Hawke came swooping from the West,
The French King's admiral with twenty of the line
Came sailing forth to sack us out of Brest."

Laperouse's ship, the FORMIDABLE, was one of the French fleet of
twenty-one sail. What happened was this. The French foreign minister,
Choiseul, had hatched a crafty plan for the invasion of England, but
before it could be executed the British fleet had to be cleared out of
the way. There was always that tough wooden wall with the hearts of oak
behind it, standing solidly in the path. It baffled Napoleon in the
same fashion when he thought out an invasion plan in the next century.
The French Admiral, Conflans, schemed to lure Sir Edward Hawke into
Quiberon Bay, on the coast of Brittany. A strong westerly gale was
blowing and was rapidly swelling into a raging tempest. Conflans,
piloted by a reliable guide who knew the Bay thoroughly, intended to
take up a fairly safe, sheltered position on the lee side, and hoped
that the wind would force Hawke, who was not familiar with the
ground, on to the reefs and shoals, where his fleet would be destroyed
by the storm and the French guns together. But Hawke, whose name
signally represents the bold, swift, sure character of the man,
understood the design, took the risk, avoided the danger, and clutched
the prey. Following the French as rapidly as wind and canvas could take
him, he caught their rearmost vessels, smashed them up, battered the
whole fleet successively into flight or splinters, and himself lost
only two vessels, which ran upon a shoal. Plodding prose does scant
justice to the extraordinary brilliancy of Hawke's victory, described
by Admiral Mahan as "the Trafalgar of this war." We cannot pass on
without quoting one of Mr. Newbolt's graphic verses:--

"'Twas long past the noon of a wild November day
When Hawke came swooping from the west;
He heard the breakers thundering in Quiberon Bay,
But he flew the flag for battle, line abreast.
Down upon the quicksands, roaring out of sight,
Fiercely blew the storm wind, darkly fell the night,
For they took the foe for pilot and the cannon's glare for light,
When Hawke came swooping from the West."

"They took the foe for pilot:" that is a most excellent touch, both
poetical and true.

The FORMIDABLE was the first to be disposed of in the fight. She was an
80-gun line-of-battle ship, carrying the flag of Admiral du
Verger. Her position being in the rear of the squadron, she was early
engaged by the RESOLUTION, and in addition received the full broadside
of every other British ship that passed her. The Admiral fell mortally
wounded, and two hundred on board were killed. She struck her colours
at four o'clock after receiving a terrible battering, and was the only
French ship captured by Hawke's fleet. All the others were sunk, burnt,
or beached, or else escaped. The young Laperouse was amongst the
wounded, though his hurts were not dangerous; and, after a brief period
spent in England as a prisoner of war, he returned to service.

An amusing rhyme in connection with this engagement is worth recalling.
Supplies for Hawke's fleet did not come to hand for a considerable time
after they were due, and in consequence the victorious crews had to be
put on "short commons." Some wag--it is the way of the British sailor
to do his grumbling with a spice of humour--put the case thus:--

"Ere Hawke did bang
Monsieur Conflans,
You sent us beef and beer;
Now Monsieur's beat
We've nought to eat,
Since you have nought to fear."

An interesting coincidence must also be noted. Thirty-five years later,
only a few leagues from the place where Laperouse first learnt
what it meant to fight the British on the sea, another young officer
who was afterwards greatly concerned with Australasian exploration had
his introduction to naval warfare. It was in 1794 that Midshipman
Matthew Flinders, on the BELLEROPHON, Captain Pasley, played his
valiant little part in a great fleet action off Brest. Both of these
youths, whose longing was for exploration and discovery, and who are
remembered by mankind in that connection, were cradled on the sea
amidst the smoke and flame of battle, both in the same waters.

During the next twenty-five years Laperouse saw a considerable amount
of fighting in the East and West Indies, and in Canadian waters. He was
commander of the AMAZON, under D'Estaing, during a period when events
did not shape themselves very gloriously for British arms, not because
our admirals had lost their skill and nerve, or our seamen their grit
and courage, but because Governments at home muddled, squabbled,
starved the navy, misunderstood the problem, and generally made a mess
of things. We need not follow him through the details of these years,
but simply note that Laperouse's dash and good seamanship won him a
high reputation among French naval officers, and brought him under the
eye of the authorities who afterwards chose him to command an
expedition of discovery.

One incident must be recorded, because it throws a light on the
character of Laperouse. In 1782, whilst serving under Admiral
Latouche-Treville in the West, he was ordered to destroy the British
forts on the Hudson River. He attacked them with the SCEPTRE, 74 guns.
The British had been engaged in their most unfortunate war with the
American Colonies, and in 1781, in consequence of wretchedly bad
strategy, had lost command of the sea. The French had been helping the
revolted Americans, not for love of them, but from enmity to their
rivals. After the capitulation of the British troops at Yorktown, a
number of loyalists still held out under discouraging conditions in
Canada, and the French desired to dislodge them from the important
waterway of the Hudson.

Laperouse found little difficulty in fulfilling his mission, for the
defence was weak and the garrisons of the forts, after a brief
resistance, fled to the woods. It was then that he did a thing
described in our principal naval history as an act of "kindness and
humanity, rare in the annals of war." Laperouse knew that if he totally
destroyed the stores as well as the forts, the unfortunate British,
after he had left, would perish either from hunger or under the
tomahawks of the Red Indians. So he was careful to see that the food
and clothing, and a quantity of powder and small arms, were left
untouched, for, as he nobly said, "An enemy conquered should have
nothing more to fear from a civilised foe; he then becomes a friend."

Some readers may like to see the verses in which a French poet
has enshrined this incident. For their benefit they are appended:--

"Un jour ayant appris que les Anglais en fuite
Se cachaient dans un bois redoutant la poursuite,
Tu laissas sur la plage aux soldats affames,
Par la peur affoles, en haillons, desarmes,
Des vivres abondantes, des habits et des armes;
Tu t'eloignas apres pour calmer leurs alarmes,
Et quand on s'etonnait: 'Sachez qu' un ennemi
Vaincu n'a rien a craindre, et devient un ami.'"

The passage may be rendered in English thus: "One day, having heard
that the fleeing English were hidden in a forest dreading pursuit, you
left upon the shore for those soldiers--famished, ragged, disarmed,
and paralysed by fear--abundance of food, clothes and arms; then, to
calm their fears, you removed your forces to a distance; and, when
astonishment was expressed, you said: 'Understand that a beaten enemy
has nothing to fear from us, and becomes a friend.'"

Chapter III.


"My story is a romance"--"Mon histoire est un roman"--wrote Laperouse
in relating the events with which this chapter will deal. We have seen
him as a boy; we have watched him in war; we shall presently follow him
as a navigator. But it is just as necessary to read his charming love
story, if we are to understand his character. We should have no true
idea of him unless we knew how he bore himself amid perplexities that
might have led him to quote, as peculiarly appropriate to his own case,
the lines of Shakespeare:--

"Ay me! for ought that ever I could read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth,"

During the period of his service in the East Indies, Laperouse
frequently visited Ile-de-France (which is now a British possession,
called Mauritius). Then it was the principal naval station of the
French in the Indian Ocean. There he met a beautiful girl, the daughter
of one of the subordinate officials at Port Louis. Louise Eleonore
Broudou is said to have been "more than pretty"; she was distinguished
by grace of manner, charm of disposition, and fine, cultivated
character. The young officer saw her often, admired her much,
fell in love with her, and asked her to marry him. Mademoiselle loved
him too; and if they two only had had to be consulted, the happy union
of a well-matched pair might have followed soon.

It signified little to Laperouse, in love, that the lady had neither
rank nor fortune. But his family in France took quite a different view.
He wrote to a favourite sister, telling her about it, and she lost no
time in conveying the news to his parents. This was in 1775. Then the
trouble began.

Inasmuch as he was over thirty years of age at this time, it may be
thought that he might have been left to choose a wife for himself. But
a young officer of rank in France, under the Old Regime, was not so
free in these matters as he would be nowadays. Marriage was much more
than a personal affair. It was even more than a family affair. People
of rank did not so much marry as "make alliances"--or rather, submit
to having them made for them. It was quite a regular thing for a
marriage to be arranged by the families of two young people who had
never even seen each other. An example of that kind will appear

The idea that the Comte de Laperouse, one of the smartest officers in
the French King's navy, should marry out of his rank and station,
shocked his relatives and friends as much as it would have done if he
had been detected picking pockets. He could not, without grave risk of
social and professional ruin, marry until he had obtained the
consent of his father, and--so naval regulations required--of his
official superiors. Both were firmly refused. Monsieur de Ternay, who
commanded on the Ile-de-France station, shook his wise head, and told
the lover "that his love fit would pass, and that people did not
console themselves for being poor with the fact that they were
married." (This M. de Ternay, it may be noted, had commanded a French
squadron in Canada in 1762, and James Cook was a junior officer on the
British squadron which blockaded him in St. John's Harbour. He managed
to slip out one night, much to the disgust of Colville, the British
Admiral, who commented scathingly on his "shameful flight.")

The father of Laperouse poured out his forbidding warnings in a long
letter. Listen to the "tut-tut" of the old gentleman at Albi:--

"You make me tremble, my son. How can you face with coolness the
consequences of a marriage which would bring you into disgrace with the
Minister and would lose you the assistance of powerful friends? You
would forfeit the sympathies of your colleagues and would sacrifice the
fruit of your work during twenty years. In disgracing yourself you
would humiliate your family and your parents. You would prepare for
yourself nothing but remorse; you would sacrifice your fortune and
position to a frivolous fancy for beauty and to pretended charms which
perhaps exist only in your own imagination. Neither honour nor probity
compels you to meet ill-considered engagements that you may have
made with that person or with her parents. Do they or you know that you
are not free, that you are under my authority?" He went on to draw a
picture of the embarrassments that would follow such a marriage, and
then there is a passage revealing the cash-basis aspect of the old
gentleman's objection: "You say that there are forty officers in the
Marine who have contracted marriages similar to that which you propose
to make. You have better models to follow, and in any case what was
lacking on the side of birth, in these instances, was compensated by
fortune. Without that balance they would not have had the baseness and
imprudence to marry thus." Poor Eleonore had no compensating balance of
that kind in her favour. She was only beautiful, charming and
sweet-natured. Therefore, "tut-tut, my son!"

In the course of the next few months Laperouse covered himself with
glory by his services on the AMAZON, the ASTREE, and the SCEPTRE, and
he hoped that these exploits would incline his father to accede to his
ardent wish. But no; the old gentleman was as hard as a rock. He
"tut-tutted" with as much vigour as ever. The lovers had to wait.

Then his mother, full of love for her son and of pride in his
achievements, took a hand, and tried to arrange a more suitable match
for him. An old friend of the family, Madame de Vesian had a
marriageable daughter. She was rich and beautiful, and her lineage was
noble. She had never seen Laperouse, and he had never seen her,
but that was an insignificant detail in France under the old Regime. If
the parents on each side thought the marriage suitable, that was
enough. The wishes of the younger people concerned were, it is true,
consulted before the betrothal, but it was often a consultation merely
in form, and under pressure. We should think that way of making
marriages most unsatisfactory; but then, a French family of position in
the old days would have thought our freer system very shocking and
loose. It is largely a matter of usage; and that the old plan, which
seems so faulty to us, produced very many happy and lasting unions,
there is much delightful French family history to prove.

Laperouse had now been many months away from Ile-de-France and the
bright eyes of Eleonore. He was extremely fond of his mother, and
anxious to meet her wishes. Moreover, he held Madame de Vesian in high
esteem, and wrote that he "had always admired her, and felt sure that
her daughter resembled her." These influences swayed him, and he gave
way; but, being frank and honest by disposition, insisted that no
secret should be made of his affair of the heart with the lady across
the sea. He wrote to Madame de Vesian a candid letter, in which he

"Being extremely sensitive, I should be the most unfortunate of men if
I were not beloved by my wife, if I had not her complete confidence, if
her life amongst her friends and children did not render her
perfectly happy. I desire one day to regard you as a mother, and to-day
I open my heart to you as my best friend. I authorise my mother to
relate to you my old love affair. My heart has always been a romance
(MON COEUR A TOUJOURS ETE UN ROMAN); and the more I sacrificed prudence
to those whom I loved the happier I was. But I cannot forget the
respect that I owe to my parents and to their wishes. I hope that in a
little while I shall be free. If then I have a favourable reply from
you, and if I can make your daughter happy and my character is
approved, I shall fly to Albi and embrace you a thousand times. I shall
not distinguish you from my mother and my sisters."

He also wrote to Monsieur de Vesian, begging him not to interfere with
the free inclinations of his daughter, and to remember that "in order
to be happy there must be no repugnance to conquer. I have, however,"
he added, "an affair to terminate which does not permit me to dispose
of myself entirely. My mother will tell you the details. I hope to be
free in six weeks or two months. My happiness will then be
inexpressible if I obtain your consent and that of Madame de Vesian,
with the certainty of not having opposed the wishes of Mademoiselle,
your daughter."

"I hope to be free"--did he "hope"? That was his polite way of putting
the matter. Or he may have believed that he had conquered his love for
Eleonore Broudou, and that she, as a French girl who understood his
obligations to his family, would--perhaps after making a few
handkerchiefs damp with her tears--acquiesce.

So the negotiations went on, and at length, in May, 1783, the de Vesian
family accepted Laperouse as the fiance of their daughter. "My project
is to live with my family and yours," he wrote. "I hope that my wife
will love my mother and my sisters, as I feel that I shall love you and
yours. Any other manner of existence is frightful to me, and I have
sufficient knowledge of the world and of myself to know that I can only
be happy in living thus."

But in the very month that he wrote contracting himself--that is
precisely the word--to marry the girl he had never seen, Eleonore, the
girl whom he had seen, whom he had loved, and whom he still loved in
his heart, came to Paris with her parents. Laperouse saw her again. He
told her what had occurred. Of course she wept; what girl would not?
She said, between her sobs, that if it was to be all over between them
she would go into a convent. She could never marry anyone else.

"Mon histoire est un roman," and here beginneth the new chapter of this
real love story. Why, we wonder, has not some novelist discovered these
Laperouse letters and founded a tale upon them? Is it not a better
story even told in bare outline in these few pages, than nine-tenths of
the concoctions of the novelists, which are sold in thousands? Think of
the wooing of these two delightful people, the beautiful girl and the
gallant sailor, in the ocean isle, with its tropical perfumes and
colours, its superb mountain and valley scenery, bathed in
eternal sunshine by day and kissed by cool ocean breezes by night--the
isle of Paul and Virginia, the isle which to Alexandre Dumas was the
Paradise of the World, an enchanted oasis of the ocean, "all carpeted
with greenery and refreshed with cooling streams, where, no matter what
the season, you may gently sink asleep beneath the shade of palms and
jamrosades, soothed by the babbling of a crystal spring."

Think of how he must have entertained and thrilled her with accounts of
his adventures: of storms, of fights with the terrible English, of the
chasing of corsairs and the battering of the fleets of Indian princes.
Think of her open-eyed wonder, and of the awakening of love in her
heart; and then of her dread, lest after all, despite his consoling
words and soft assurances, he, the Comte, the officer, should be
forbidden to marry her, the maiden who had only her youth, her beauty,
and her character, but no rank, no fortune, to win favour from the
proud people who did not know her. The author is at all events certain
of this: that if the letters had seen the light before old Alexandre
Dumas died, he would have pounced upon them with glee, and would have
written around them a romance that all the world would have rejoiced to

But while we think of what the novelists have missed, we are neglecting
the real story, the crisis of which we have now reached.

Seeing Eleonore again, his sensitive heart deeply moved by her sorrow,
Laperouse took a manly resolution. He would marry her despite
all obstacles. He had promised her at her home in Ile-de-France. He
would keep his promise. He would not spoil her beautiful young life
even for his family.

But there was the contract concerning Mademoiselle de Vesian. What of
that? Clearly Laperouse was in a fix. Well, a man who has been over
twenty-five years at sea has been in a fix many times, and learns that
a bold face and tact are good allies. Remembering the nature of his
situation, it will be agreed that the letter he wrote to his mother,
announcing his resolve, was a model of good taste and fine feeling:

"I have seen Eleonore, and I have not been able to resist the remorse
by which I am devoured. My excessive attachment to you had made me
violate all that which is most sacred among men. I forgot the vows of
my heart, the cries of my conscience. I was in Paris for twenty days,
and, faithful to my promise to you, I did not go to see her. But I
received a letter from her. She made no reproach against me, but the
most profound sentiment of sadness was expressed in it. At the instant
of reading it the veil fell from my eyes. My situation filled me with
horror. I am no better in my own eyes than a perjurer, unworthy of
Mademoiselle de Vesian, to whom I brought a heart devoured by remorse
and by a passion that nothing could extinguish. I was equally unworthy
of Mademoiselle Broudou, and wished to leave her. My only excuse,
my dear mother, is the extreme desire I have always had to
please you. It is for you alone, and for my father, that I wished to
marry. Desiring to live with you for the remainder of my life, I
consented to your finding me a wife with whom I could abide. The choice
of Mademoiselle de Vesian had overwhelmed me, because her mother is a
woman for whom I have a true attachment; and Heaven is my witness
to-day that I should have preferred her daughter to the most brilliant
match in the universe. It is only four days since I wrote to her on the
subject. How can I reconcile my letter with my present situation? But,
my dear mother, it would be feebleness in me to go further with the
engagement. I have doubtless been imprudent in contracting an
engagement without your consent, but I should be a monster if I
violated my oaths and married Mademoiselle de Vesian. I do not doubt
that you tremble at the abyss over which you fear that I am about to
fall, but I feel that I can only live with Eleonore, and I hope that
you will give your consent to our union. My fortune will suffice for
our wants, and we shall live near you. But I shall only come to Albi
when Mademoiselle de Vesian shall be married, and when I can be sure
that another, a thousand times more worthy than I am, shall have sworn
to her an attachment deeper than that which it was in my power to
offer. I shall write neither to Madame nor Monsieur de Vesian. Join to
your other kindnesses that of undertaking this painful commission."

There was no mistaking the firm, if regretful tone, of that
letter; and Laperouse married his Eleonore at Paris.

Did Mademoiselle de Vesian break her heart because her sailor fiance
had wed another? Not at all! She at once became engaged to the Baron de
Senegas--had she seen him beforehand, one wonders?--and married him
in August! Laperouse was prompt to write his congratulations to her
parents, and it is diverting to find him saying, concerning the lady to
whom he himself had been engaged only a few weeks before, that he
regretted "never having had the honour of seeing her!"

But there was still another difficulty to be overcome before Laperouse
and his happy young bride could feel secure. He had broken a regulation
of the service by marrying without official sanction. True, he had
talked of settling down at Albi, but that was when he thought he was
going to marry a young lady whom he did not know. Now he had married
the girl of his heart; and love, as a rule, does not stifle ambition.
Rather are the two mutually co-operative. Eleonore had fallen in love
with him as a gallant sailor, and a sailor she wanted him still to be.
Perhaps, in her dreams, she saw him a great Admiral, commanding
powerful navies and winning glorious victories for France. Madame la
Comtesse did not wish her husband to end his career because he had
married her, be sure of that.

Here Laperouse did a wise and tactful thing, which showed that he
understood something of human nature. Nothing interests old
ladies so much as the love affairs of young people; and old ladies in
France at that time exercised remarkable influence in affairs of
government. The Minister of Marine was the Marquis de Castries. Instead
of making a clean breast of matters to him, Laperouse wrote a long and
delightful letter to Madame la Marquise. "Madame," he said, "mon
histoire est un roman," and he begged her to read it. Of course she
did. What old lady would not? She was a very grand lady indeed, was
Madame la Marquise; but this officer who wrote his heart's story to
her, was a dashing hero. He told her how he had fallen in love in
Ile-de-France; how consent to his marriage had been officially and
paternally refused; how he had tried "to stifle the sentiments which
were nevertheless remaining at the bottom of my heart." Would she
intercede with the Minister for him and excuse him?

Of course she would! She was a dear old lady, was Madame la Marquise.
Within a few days Laperouse received from the Minister a most paternal,
good natured letter, which assured him that his romantic affair should
not interfere with his prospects, and concluded: "Enjoy the pleasure of
having made someone happy, and the marks of honour and distinction that
you have received from your fellow citizens."

Such is the love story of Laperouse. Alas! the marriage did not bring
many years of happiness to poor Eleonore, much as she deserved them.
Two years afterwards, her hero sailed away on that expedition
from which he never returned. She dwelt at Albi, hoping until hope gave
way to despair, and at last she died, of sheer grief they said, nine
years after the waters of the Pacific had closed over him who had wooed
her and wedded her for herself alone.

Chapter IV.


King Louis XVI of France was as unfortunate a monarch as was ever born
to a throne. Had it been his happier lot to be the son of a farmer, a
shopkeeper, or a merchant, he would have passed for an excellent man of
business and a good, solid, sober, intelligent citizen. But he
inherited with his crown a system of government too antiquated for the
times, too repressive for the popular temper to endure, and was not
statesman enough to remodel it to suit the requirements of his people.
It was not his fault that he was not a great man; and a great man--a
man of large grasp, wide vision, keen sympathies, and penetrating
imagination--was needed in France if the social forces at work, the
result of new ideas fermenting in the minds of men and impelling them,
were to be directed towards wise and wholesome reform. Failing such
direction, those forces burst through the restraints of law, custom,
authority, loyalty and respect, and produced the most startling
upheaval in modern history, the Great French Revolution. Louis lost
both his crown and his head, the whole system of government was
overturned, and the way was left open for the masterful mind and strong
arm needed to restore discipline and order to the nation: Napoleon

Louis was very fond of literature. During the sad last months of
his imprisonment, before the guillotine took his life, he read over 230
volumes. He especially liked books of travel and geography, and one of
his favourite works was the VOYAGES of Cook. He had the volumes near
him in the last phase of his existence. There is a pleasant drawing
representing the King in his prison, with the little Dauphin seated on
his knee, pointing out the countries and oceans on a large geographical
globe; and he took a pride in having had prepared "for the education of
Monsieur le Dauphin," a History of the Exploration of the South Seas.
It was published in Paris, in three small volumes, in 1791.

The study of Cook made a deep impression on the King's mind. Why, he
asked himself, should not France share in the glory of discovering new
lands, and penetrating untraversed seas? There was a large amount of
exploratory work still to be done. English navigators were always busy
sailing to unknown parts, but the entire world was by no means revealed
yet. There were, particularly, big blank spaces at the bottom of the
globe. That country called by the Dutch New Holland, the eastern part
of which Cook had found--there was evidently much to be done there.
What were the southern coasts like? Was it one big island-continent, or
was it divided into two by a strait running south from the head of the
Gulf of Carpentaria? Then there was that piece of country discovered by
the Dutchman Tasman, and named Van Diemen's Land. Was it an
island, or did it join on to New Holland? There were also many islands
of the Pacific still to be explored and correctly charted, the map of
Eastern Asia was imperfect, and the whole of the coastline of
North-Western America was not accurately known.

The more Louis turned the matter over in his mind, the more he studied
his globes, maps and books of voyages, the more convinced he was that
France, as a maritime nation and a naval Power, ought to play an
important part in this grand work of unveiling to mankind the full
extent, form, nature and resources of our planet.

He sent for a man whose name the Australian reader should particularly
note, because he had much to do with three important discovery voyages
affecting our history. Charles Claret, Comte de Fleurieu, was the
principal geographer in France. He was at this time director of ports
and arsenals. He had throughout his life been a keen student of
navigation, was a practical sailor, invented a marine chronometer which
was a great improvement on clocks hitherto existing, devised a method
of applying the metric system to the construction of marine charts, and
wrote several works on his favourite subject. A large book of his on
discoveries in Papua and the Solomon Islands is still of much

As a French writer--an expert in this field of knowledge--has written
of Fleurieu, "he it was who prepared nearly all the plans for naval
operations during the war of 1778, and the instructions for the
voyages of discovery--those of Laperouse and Dentrecasteaux--for
which Louis XVI had given general directions; and to whose wise and
well-informed advice is due in large part the utility derived from
them." It was chiefly because of Fleurieu's knowledge of geography that
the King chose him to be the tutor of the Dauphin; and in 1790 he
became Minister of Marine.

Louis XVI and Fleurieu talked the subject over together; and the
latter, at the King's command, drew up a long memorandum indicating the
parts of the globe where an expedition of discovery might most
profitably apply itself.

The King decided (1785) that a voyage should be undertaken; two ships
of the navy, LA BOUSSOLE and L'ASTROLABE, were selected for the
purpose; and, on the recommendation of the Marquis de Castries--remember
Madame la Marquise!--Laperouse was chosen for the command.

All three of the men who ordered, planned and executed the voyage, the
King, the scholar, and the officer, were devoted students of the work
and writings of Cook; and copies of his VOYAGES, in French and English,
were placed in the library of navigation carried on board the ships for
the edification of the officers and crews. Over and over again in the
instructions prepared--several times on a page in some places--appear
references to what Cook had done, and to what Cook had left to be done;
showing that both King Louis and Fleurieu knew his voyages and
charts, not merely as casual readers, but intimately. As for Laperouse
himself, his admiration of Cook has already been mentioned; here it may
be added that when, before he sailed, Sir Joseph Banks presented him
with two magnetic needles that had been used by Cook, he wrote that he
"received them with feelings bordering almost upon religious veneration
for the memory of that great and incomparable navigator." So that, we
see, the extent of our great sailor's influence is not to be measured
even by his discoveries and the effect of his writings upon his own
countrymen. He radiated a magnetic force which penetrated far; down to
our own day it has by no means lost its stimulating energy.

In the picture gallery at the Palace of Versailles, there is an oil
painting by Mansiau, a copy of which may be seen in the Mitchell
Library, Sydney. It is called "Louis XVI giving instructions to
Monsieur de Laperouse for his voyage around the world." An Australian
statesman who saw it during a visit to Paris a few years ago, confessed
publicly on his return to his own country that he gazed long upon it,
and recognised it as being "of the deepest interest to Australians." So
indeed it is. A photograph of the picture is given here.

The instructions were of course prepared by Fleurieu: anyone familiar
with his writings can see plenty of internal evidence of that. But
Louis was not a little vain of his own geographical knowledge, and he
gave a special audience to Laperouse, explaining the
instructions verbally before handing them to him in writing.

They are admirably clear instructions, indicating a full knowledge of
the work of preceding navigators and of the parts of the earth where
discovery needed to be pursued. Their defect was that they expected too
much to be done on one voyage. Let us glance over them, devoting
particular attention to the portions affecting Australasia.

The ships were directed to sail across the Atlantic and round Cape
Horn, visiting certain specified places on the way. In the Pacific they
were to visit Easter Island, Tahiti, the Society Islands, the Friendly
and Navigator groups, and New Caledonia. "He will pass Endeavour Strait
and in this passage will try to ascertain whether the land of Louisiade
(the Louisiade Archipelago), be contiguous to that of New Guinea, and
will reconnoitre all this part of the coast from Cape Deliverance to
the Island of St. Barthelomew, east-northeast of Cape Walsh, of which
at present we have a very imperfect knowledge. It is much to be wished
that he may be able to examine the Gulf of Carpentaria."

He was then to explore the western shores of New Holland. "He will run
down the western coast and take a closer view of the southern, the
greater part of which has never been visited, finishing his survey at
Van Diemen's Land, at Adventure Bay or Prince Frederick Henry's, whence
he will make sail for Cook's Strait, and anchor in Queen
Charlotte's Sound, in that Strait, between the two islands which
constitute New Zealand."

That direction is especially important, because if Laperouse had not
perished, but had lived to carry out his programme, it is evident that
he would have forestalled the later discoveries of Bass and Flinders in
southern Australia. What a vast difference to the later course of
history that might have made!

After leaving New Zealand he was to cross the Pacific to the north-west
coast of America. The programme included explorations in the China Sea,
at the Philippines, the Moluccas and Timor, and contemplated a return
to France in July or August, 1789, after a voyage of about three years.

But although his course was mapped out in such detail, discretion was
left to Laperouse to vary it if he thought fit. "All the calculations
of which a sketch is given here must be governed by the circumstances
of the voyage, the condition of the crews, ships and provisions, the
events that may occur in the expedition and accidents which it is
impossible to foresee. His Majesty, therefore, relying on the
experience and judgment of the sieur de Laperouse, authorises him to
make any deviation that he may deem necessary, in unforeseen cases,
pursuing, however, as far as possible, the plan traced out, and
conforming to the directions given in the other parts of the present

A separate set of instructions had regard to observations to be made by
Laperouse upon the political conditions, possibilities of commerce, and
suitability for settlement, of the lands visited by him. In the
Pacific, he was to inquire "whether the cattle, fowls, and other
animals which Captain Cook left on some of the islands have bred." He
was to examine attentively "the north and west coasts of New Holland,
and particularly that part of the coast which, being situated in the
torrid zone, may enjoy some of the productions peculiar to countries in
similar latitudes." In New Zealand he was to ascertain "whether the
English have formed or entertain the project of forming any settlement
on these islands; and if he should hear that they have actually formed
a settlement, he will endeavour to repair thither in order to learn the
condition, strength and object of the settlement."

It is singular that the instructions contain no reference to Botany
Bay. It was the visit paid by Laperouse to this port that brought him
into touch with Australian history. Yet his call there was made purely
in the exercise of his discretion. He was not directed to pay any
attention to eastern Australia. When he sailed the French Government
knew nothing of the contemplated settlement of New South Wales by the
British; and he only heard of it in the course of his voyage. Indeed,
it is amazing how little was known of Australia at the time. "We have
nothing authentic or sufficiently minute respecting this part of the
largest island on the globe," said the instructions concerning the
northern and western coasts; but there was not a word about the eastern

The reader who reflects upon the facts set forth in this chapter
will realise that the French Revolution, surprising as the statement
may seem, affected Australian history in a remarkable way. If Louis XVI
had not been dethroned and beheaded, but had remained King of France,
there cannot be any doubt that he would have persisted in the
investigation of the South Seas. He was deeply interested in the
subject, very well informed about it, and ambitious that his country
should be a great maritime and colonising Power. But the Revolution
slew Louis, plunged France in long and disastrous wars, and brought
Napoleon to the front. The whole course of history was diverted. It was
as if a great river had been turned into a fresh channel.

If the navigator of the French King had discovered southern Australia,
and settlement had followed, it is not to be supposed that Great
Britain would have opposed the plans of France; for Australia then was
not the Australia that we know, and England had very little use even
for the bit she secured. Unthinking people might suppose that the
French Revolution meant very little to us. Indeed, unthinking people
are very apt to suppose that we can go our own way without regarding
what takes place elsewhere. They do not realise that the world is one,
and that the policies of nations interact upon each other. In point of
fact, the Revolution meant a great deal to Australia. This country is,
indeed, an island far from Europe, but the threads of her history are
entwined with those of European history in a very curious and
often intricate fashion. The French Revolution and the era of Napoleon,
if we understand their consequences, really concern us quite as much
as, say, the gold discoveries and the accomplishment of Federation.

Chapter V.


The expedition sailed from Brest rather sooner than had at first been
contemplated, on August 1, 1785, and doubled Cape Horn in January of
the following year. Some weeks were spent on the coast of Chili; and
the remarks of Laperouse concerning the manners of the Spanish rulers
of the country cover some of his most entertaining pages. He has an eye
for the picturesque, a kindly feeling for all well-disposed people, a
pleasant touch in describing customs, and shrewd judgment in estimating
character. These qualities make him an agreeable writer of travels.
They are fairly illustrated by the passages in which he describes the
people of the city of Concepcion. Take his account of the ladies:

"The dress of these ladies, extremely different from what we have been
accustomed to see, consists of a plaited petticoat, tied considerably
below the waist; stockings striped red, blue and white; and shoes so
short that the toes are bent under the ball of the foot so as to make
it appear nearly round. Their hair is without powder and is divided
into small braids behind, hanging over the shoulders. Their bodice is
generally of gold or silver stuff, over which there are two short
cloaks, that underneath of muslin and the other of wool of different
colours, blue, yellow and pink. The upper one is drawn over the
head when they are in the streets and the weather is cold; but within
doors it is usual to place it on their knees; and there is a game
played with the muslin cloak by continually shifting it about, in which
the ladies of Concepcion display considerable grace. They are for the
most part handsome, and of so polite and pleasing manners that there is
certainly no maritime town in Europe where strangers are received with
so much attention and kindness."

At this city Laperouse met the adventurous Irishman, Ambrose O'Higgins,
who by reason of his conspicuous military abilities became commander of
the Spanish forces in Chili, and afterwards Viceroy of Peru. His name
originally was simply Higgins, but he prefixed the "O" when he
blossomed into a Spanish Don, "as being more aristocratic." He was the
father of the still more famous Bernardo O'Higgins, "the Washington of
Chili," who led the revolt against Spanish rule and became first
president of the Chilian Republic in 1818. Laperouse at once conceived
an attachment for O'Higgins, "a man of extraordinary activity," and one
"adored in the country."

In April, 1786, the expedition was at Easter Island, where the
inhabitants appeared to be a set of cunning and hypocritical thieves,
who "robbed us of everything which it was possible for them to carry
off." Steering north, the Sandwich Islands were reached early in May.
Here Laperouse liked the people, "though my prejudices were
strong against them on account of the death of Captain Cook." A passage
in the commander's narrative gives his opinion on the annexation of the
countries of native races by Europeans, and shows that, in common with
very many of his countrymen, he was much influenced by the ideas of
Rousseau, then an intellectual force in France--

"Though the French were the first who, in modern times, had landed on
the island of Mowee, I did not think it my duty to take possession in
the name of the King. The customs of Europeans on such occasions are
completely ridiculous. Philosophers must lament to see that men, for no
better reason than because they are in possession of firearms and
bayonets, should have no regard for the rights of sixty thousand of
their fellow creatures, and should consider as an object of conquest a
land fertilised by the painful exertions of its inhabitants, and for
many ages the tomb of their ancestors. These islands have fortunately
been discovered at a period when religion no longer serves as a pretext
for violence and rapine. Modern navigators have no other object in
describing the manners of remote nations than that of completing the
history of man; and the knowledge they endeavour to diffuse has for its
sole aim to render the people they visit more happy, and to augment
their means of subsistence."

If Laperouse could see the map of the Pacific to-day he would find its
groups of islands all enclosed within coloured rings, indicating
possession by the great Powers of the world. He would be puzzled
and pained by the change. But the history of the political movements
leading to the parcelling out of seas and lands among strong States
would interest him, and he would realise that the day of feeble
isolation has gone. Nothing would make him marvel more than the
floating of the Stars and Stripes over Hawaii, for he knew that flag
during the American War of Independence. It was adopted as the flag of
the United States in 1777, and during the campaign the golden lilies of
the standard of France fluttered from many masts in co-operation with
it. Truly a century and a quarter has brought about a wonderful change,
not only in the face of the globe and in the management of its affairs,
but still more radically in the ideas of men and in the motives that
sway their activities!

The geographical work done by Laperouse in this part of the Pacific was
of much importance. It removed from the chart five or six islands which
had no existence, having been marked down erroneously by previous
navigators. From this region the expedition sailed to Alaska, on the
north-west coast of North America. Cook had explored here "with that
courage and perseverance of which all Europe knows him to have been
capable," wrote Laperouse, never failing to use an opportunity of
expressing admiration for his illustrious predecessor. But there was
still useful work to do, and the French occupied their time very
profitably with it from June to August. Then their ships sailed down
the western coast of America to California, struck east across
the Pacific to the Ladrones, and made for Macao in China--then as now
a Portugese possession--reaching that port in January, 1787.

The Philippines were next visited, and Laperouse formed pleasant
impressions of Manilla. It is clear from his way of alluding to the
customs of the Spanish inhabitants that the French captain was not a
tobacco smoker. It was surprising to him that "their passion for
smoking this narcotic is so immoderate that there is not an instant of
the day in which either a man or woman is without a cigar;" and it is
equally surprising to us that the French editor of the history of the
voyage found it necessary to explain in a footnote that a cigar is "a
small roll of tobacco which is smoked without the assistance of a
pipe." But cigars were then little known in Europe, except among
sailors and travellers who had visited the Spanish colonies; and the
very spelling of the word was not fixed. In English voyages it appears
as "seegar," "segar," and "sagar."

Formosa was visited in April, northern Japan in May, and the
investigation of the north-eastern coasts of Asia occupied until

A passage in a letter from Laperouse to Fleurieu is worth quoting for
two reasons. It throws some light on the difficulties of navigation in
unknown seas, and upon the commander's severe application to duty; and
it also serves to remind us that Japan, now so potent a factor in the
politics of the East and of the whole Pacific, had not then emerged
from the barbarian exclusiveness towards foreigners, which she
had maintained since Europe commenced to exploit Asia. In the middle of
the seventeenth century she had expelled the Spaniards and the
Portugese with much bloodshed, and had closed her ports to all traders
except the Chinese and the Dutch, who were confined to a prescribed
area at Nagasaki. Intercourse with all other foreign peoples was
strictly forbidden. Even as late as 1842 it was commanded that if any
foreign vessel were driven by distress or tempestuous weather into a
Japanese port, she might only remain so long as was necessary to meet
her wants, and must then depart. Laperouse knew of this jealous
Japanese antipathy to foreign visitors, and, as he explains in the
letter, meant to keep away from the country because of it. He wrote:--

"The part of our voyage between Manilla and Kamchatka will afford you,
I hope, complete satisfaction. It was the newest, the most interesting,
and certainly, from the everlasting fogs which enveloped the land in
the latitudes we traversed, the most difficult. These fogs are such
that it has taken one hundred and fifty days to explore a part of the
coast which Captain King, in the third volume of Cook's last voyage,
supposes might be examined in the course of two months. During this
period I rested only ten days, three in the Bay of Ternai, two in the
Bay de Langle, and five in the Bay de Castries. Thus I wasted no time;
I even forebore to circumnavigate the island of Chicha (Yezo) by
traversing the Strait of Sangaar (Tsugaru). I should have wished to
anchor, if possible, at the northern point of Japan, and would perhaps
have ventured to send a boat ashore, though such a proceeding would
have required the most serious deliberation, as the boat would probably
have been stopped. Where a merchant ship is concerned an event of this
kind might be considered as of little importance, but the seizure of a
boat belonging to a ship of war could scarcely be otherwise regarded
than as a national insult; and the taking and burning of a few sampans
would be a very sorry compensation as against the people who would not
exchange a single European of whom they were desirous of making an
example, for one hundred Japanese. I was, however, too far from the
coast to include such an intention, and it is impossible for me to
judge at present what I should have done had the contrary been the

"It would be difficult for me to find words to express to you the
fatigue attending this part of my voyage, during which I did not once
undress myself, nor did a single night pass without my being obliged to
spend several hours upon deck. Imagine to yourself six days of fog with
only two or three hours of clear weather, in seas extremely confined,
absolutely unknown, and where fancy, in consequence of the information
we had received, pictured to us shoals and currents that did not always
exist. From the place where we made the land on the eastern coast of
Tartary, to the strait which we discovered between Tchoka
(Saghalien) and Chicha, we did not fail to take the bearing of every
point, and you may rest assured that neither creek, port, nor river
escaped our attention, and that many charts, even of the coasts of
Europe, are less exact than those which we shall bring with us on our

"The strait which we discovered" is still called Laperouse Strait on
most modern maps, though the Japanese usually call it Soya Strait. It
runs between Yezo, the large northerly island of Japan, and Saghalien.
Current maps also show the name Boussole Strait, after Laperouse's
ship, between Urup and Simusir, two of the Kurile chain of small
islands curving from Yezo to the thumblike extremity of Kamchatka.

At Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka the drawings of the artists and the
journals of the commander up to date were packed up, and sent to France
overland across Asiatic Russia, in charge of a young member of the
staff, J. B. B. de Lesseps. He was the only one of the expedition who
ever returned to Europe. By not coming to Australia he saved his life.
He published a book about his journey, a remarkable feat of land travel
in those days. He was the uncle of a man whose remarkable engineering
work has made Australia's relations with Europe much easier and more
speedy than they were in earlier years: that Ferdinand de Lesseps who
(1859-69) planned and carried out the construction of the Suez Canal.
The ships, after replenishing, sailed for the south Pacific,
where we shall follow the proceedings of Laperouse in rather closer
detail than has been considered necessary in regard to the American and
Asiatic phases of the voyage.

Chapter VI.


On the 6th December, 1787, the expedition made the eastern end of the
Navigator Islands, that is, the Samoan Group. As the ships approached,
a party of natives were observed squatting under cocoanut trees.
Presently sixteen canoes put off from the land, and their occupants,
after paddling round the vessels distrustfully, ventured to approach
and proffer cocoanuts in exchange for strings of beads and strips of
red cloth. The natives got the better of the bargain, for, when they
had received their price, they hurried off without delivering their own
goods. Further on, an old chief delivered an harangue from the shore,
holding a branch of Kava in his hand. "We knew from what we had read of
several voyages that it was a token of peace; and throwing him some
pieces of cloth we answered by the word 'TAYO,' which signified
'friend' in the dialect of the South Sea Islands; but we were not
sufficiently experienced to understand and pronounce distinctly the
words of the vocabularies we had extracted from Cook."

Nearly all the early navigators made a feature of compiling
vocabularies of native words, and Cook devoted particular care to this
task. Dr. Walter Roth, formerly protector of Queensland aboriginals
a trained observer, has borne testimony as recently as last year
(in THE TIMES, December 29, 1911) that a list of words collected from
Endeavour Strait blacks, and "given by Captain Cook, are all more or
less recognisable at the present day." But Cook's spellings were
intended to be pronounced in the English mode. Laperouse and his
companions by giving the vowels French values would hardly be likely to
make the English navigator's vocabularies intelligible.

The native canoes amused the French captain. They "could be of use only
to people who are expert swimmers, for they are constantly turned over.
This is an accident, however, at which they feel less surprise and
anxiety than we should at a hat's blowing off. They lift the canoe on
their shoulders, and after they have emptied it of the water, get into
it again, well assured that they will have the same operation to
perform within half an hour, for it is as difficult to preserve a
balance in these ticklish things as to dance upon a rope."

At Mauna Island (now called Tutuila) some successful bargaining was
done with glass beads in exchange for pork and fruits. It surprised
Laperouse that the natives chose these paltry ornaments rather than
hatchets and tools. "They preferred a few beads which could be of no
utility, to anything we could offer them in iron or cloth."

Two days later a tragedy occurred at this island, when Captain de
Langle, the commander of the ASTROLABE, and eleven of the crew were
murdered. He made an excursion inland to look for fresh water,
and found a clear, cool spring in the vicinity of a village. The ships
were not urgently in need of water, but de Langle "had embraced the
system of Cook, and thought fresh water a hundred times preferable to
what had been some time in the hold. As some of his crew had slight
symptoms of scurvy, he thought, with justice, that we owed them every
means of alleviation in our power. Besides, no island could be compared
with this for abundance of provisions. The two ships had already
procured upwards of 500 hogs, with a large quantity of fowls, pigeons
and fruits; and all these had cost us only a few beads."

Laperouse himself doubted the prudence of sending a party inland, as he
had observed signs of a turbulent spirit among the islanders. But de
Langle insisted on the desirableness of obtaining fresh water where it
was abundant, and "replied to me that my refusal would render me
responsible for the progress of the scurvy, which began to appear with
some violence." He undertook to go at the head of the party, and,
relying on his judgment, the commander consented.

Two boats left the ship at about noon, and landed their casks
undisturbed. But when the party returned they found a crowd of over a
thousand natives assembled, and a dangerous disposition soon revealed
itself amongst them. It is possible that the Frenchmen had,
unconsciously, offended against some of their superstitious rites.
Certainly they had not knowingly been provoked. They had
peacefully bartered their fruits and nuts for beads, and had been
treated in a friendly fashion throughout. But the currents of passion
that sweep through the minds of savage peoples baffle analysis.
Something had disturbed them; what it was can hardly be surmised. One
of the officers believed that the gift of some beads to a few, excited
the envy of the others. It may be so; mere envy plays such a large part
in the affairs even of civilised peoples, that we need not wonder to
find it arousing the anger of savages. Laperouse tells what occurred in
these terms:--

"Several canoes, after having sold their ladings of provisions on board
our ships, had returned ashore, and all landed in this bay, so that it
was gradually filled. Instead of two hundred persons, including women
and children, whom M. de Langle found when he arrived at half past one,
there were ten or twelve hundred by three o'clock. He succeeded in
embarking his water; but the bay was by this time nearly dry, and he
could not hope to get his boats afloat before four o'clock, when the
tide would have risen. He stepped into them, however, with his
detachment, and posted himself in the bow, with his musket and his
marines, forbidding them to fire unless he gave orders.

"This, he began to realise, he would soon be forced to do. Stones flew
about, and the natives, only up to the knees in water, surrounded the
boats within less than three yards. The marines who were in the
boats, attempted in vain to keep them off. If the fear of commencing
hostilities and being accused of barbarity had not checked M. de
Langle, he would unquestionably have ordered a general discharge of his
swivels and musketry, which no doubt would have dispersed the mob, but
he flattered himself that he could check them without shedding blood,
and he fell a victim to his humanity.

"Presently a shower of stones thrown from a short distance with as much
force as if they had come from a sling, struck almost every man in the
boat. M. de Langle had only time to discharge the two barrels of his
piece before he was knocked down; and unfortunately he fell over the
larboard bow of the boat, where upwards of two hundred natives
instantly massacred him with clubs and stones. When he was dead, they
made him fast by the arm to one of the tholes of the long boat, no
doubt to secure his spoil. The BOUSSOLE'S long-boat, commanded by M.
Boutin, was aground within four yards of the ASTROLABE'S, and parallel
with her, so as to leave a little channel between them, which was
unoccupied by the natives. Through this all the wounded men, who were
so fortunate as not to fall on the other side of the boats, escaped by
swimming to the barges, which, happily remaining afloat, were enabled
to save forty-nine men out of the sixty-one."

Amongst the wounded was Pere Receveur, priest, naturalist and
shoemaker, who later on died of his injuries at Botany Bay, and whose
tomb there is as familiar as the Laperouse monument.

The anger of the Frenchmen at the treachery of the islanders was
not less than their grief at the loss of their companions. Laperouse,
on the first impulse, was inclined to send a strongly-armed party
ashore to avenge the massacre. But two of the officers who had escaped
pointed out that in the cove where the incident occurred the trees came
down almost to the sea, affording shelter to the natives, who would be
able to shower stones upon the party, whilst themselves remaining
beyond reach of musket balls.

"It was not without difficulty," he wrote, "that I could tear myself
away from this fatal place, and leave behind the bodies of our murdered
companions. I had lost an old friend; a man of great understanding,
judgment, and knowledge; and one of the best officers in the French
navy. His humanity had occasioned his death. Had he but allowed himself
to fire on the first natives who entered into the water to surround the
boats, he would have prevented his own death as well as those of eleven
other victims of savage ferocity. Twenty persons more were severely
wounded; and this event deprived us for the time of thirty men, and the
only two boats we had large enough to carry a sufficient number of men,
armed, to attempt a descent. These considerations determined my
subsequent conduct. The slightest loss would have compelled me to burn
one of my ships in order to man the other. If my anger had required
only the death of a few natives, I had had an opportunity after the
massacre of sinking and destroying a hundred canoes containing
upwards of five hundred persons, but I was afraid of being mistaken in
my victims, and the voice of my conscience saved their lives."

It was then that Laperouse resolved to sail to Botany Bay, of which he
had read a description in Cook's Voyages. His long-boats had been
destroyed by the natives, but he had on board the frames of two new
ones, and a safe anchorage was required where they could be put
together. His crews were exasperated; and lest there should be a
collision between them and other natives he resolved that, while
reconnoitring other groups of islands to determine their correct
latitude, he would not permit his sailors to land till he reached
Botany Bay. There he knew that he could obtain wood and water.

On December 14 Oyolava (now called Upolu) was reached. Here again the
ships were surrounded by canoes, and the angry French sailors would
have fired upon them except for the positive orders of their commander.
Throughout this unfortunate affair the strict sense of justice, which
forbade taking general vengeance for the misdeeds of particular people,
stands out strongly in the conduct of Laperouse. He acknowledged in
letters written from Botany Bay, that in future relations with
uncivilised folk he would adopt more repressive measures, as experience
taught him that lack of firm handling was by them regarded as weakness.
But his tone in all his writings is humane and kindly.

The speculations of Laperouse concerning the origin of these
peoples, are interesting, and deserve consideration by those who speak
and write upon the South Seas. He was convinced that they are all
derived from an ancient common stock, and that the race of
woolly-haired men to be found in the interior of Formosa were the
far-off parents of the natives of the Philippines, Papua, New Britain,
the New Hebrides, the Friendly Islands, the Carolines, Ladrones, and
Sandwich Groups. He believed that in those islands the interior of
which did not afford complete shelter the original inhabitants were
conquered by Malays, after which aboriginals and invaders mingled
together, producing modifications of the original types. But in Papua,
the Solomons and the New Hebrides, the Malays made little impression.
He accounted for differences in appearance amongst the people of the
islands he visited by the different degrees of Malay intermixture, and
believed that the very black people found on some islands, "whose
complexion still remains a few shades deeper than that of certain
families in the same islands" were to be accounted for by certain
families making it "a point of honour not to contaminate their blood."
The theory is at all events striking. We have a "White Australia
policy" on the mainland to-day; this speculation assumes a kind of
"Black Australasia policy" on the part of certain families of islanders
from time immemorial.

The Friendly Islands were reached in December, but the commander
had few and unimportant relations with them. On the 13th January, 1788,
the ships made for Norfolk Island, and came to anchor opposite the
place where Cook was believed to have landed. The sea was running high
at the time, breaking violently on the rocky shores of the north east.
The naturalists desired to land to collect specimens, but the heavy
breakers prevented them. The commander permitted them to coast along
the shore in boats for about half a league but then recalled them.

"Had it been possible to land, there was no way of getting into the
interior part of the island but by ascending for thirty or forty yards
the rapid stream of some torrents, which had formed gullies. Beyond
these natural barriers the island was covered with pines and carpeted
with the most beautiful verdure. It is probable that we should then
have met with some culinary vegetables, and this hope increased our
desire of visiting a land where Captain Cook had landed with the
greatest facility. He, it is true, was here in fine weather, that had
continued for several days; whilst we had been sailing in such heavy
seas that for eight day, our ports had been shut and our dead-lights
in. From the ship I watched the motions of the boats with my glass; and
seeing, as night approached, that they had found no convenient place
for landing, I made the signal to recall them, and soon after gave
orders for getting under way. Perhaps I should have lost much time had
I waited for a more favourable opportunity: and the exploring of
this island was not worth such a sacrifice."

At eight in the evening the ships got under way, and at day-break on
the following morning sail was crowded for Botany Bay.

Chapter VII.


When, in 1787, the British Government entrusted Captain Arthur Phillip
with a commission to establish a colony at Botany Bay, New South Wales,
they gave him explicit directions as to where he should locate the
settlement. "According to the best information which we have obtained,"
his instructions read, "Botany Bay appears to be the most eligible
situation upon the said coast for the first establishment, possessing a
commodious harbour and other advantages which no part of the said coast
hitherto discovered affords." But Phillip was a trustworthy man who, in
so serious a matter as the choice of a site for a town, did not follow
blindly the commands of respectable elderly gentlemen thousands of
miles away. It was his business to found a settlement successfully. To
do that he must select the best site.

After examining Botany Bay, he decided to take a trip up the coast and
see if a better situation could not be found. On the 21st January,
1788, he entered Port Jackson with three boats, and found there "the
finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may
ride in the most perfect security." He fixed upon a cove "which I
honoured with the name of Sydney." and decided that that was
there he would "plant." Every writer of mediaeval history who has had
occasion to refer to the choice by Constantine the Great of Byzantium,
afterwards Constantinople, as his capital, has extolled his judgment
and prescience. Constantine was an Emperor, and could do as he would.
Arthur Phillip was an official acting under orders. We can never
sufficiently admire the wisdom he displayed when, exercising his own
discretion, he decided upon Port Jackson. True, he had a great
opportunity, but his signal merit is that he grasped it when it was
presented, that he gave more regard to the success of his task than to
the letter of his instructions.

While he was making the search, the eleven vessels composing the First
Fleet lay in Botany Bay. He returned on the evening of the 23rd, and
immediately gave orders that the whole company should as soon as
possible sail for Port Jackson, declaring it to be, in King's quaint
words, "a very proper place to form an establisht. in."

To the great astonishment of the Fleet, on the 24th, two strange ships
made their appearance to the south of Solander Point, a projection from
the peninsula on which now stands the obelisk in memory of Cook's
landing. What could they be? Some guessed that they were English
vessels with additional stores. Some supposed that they were Dutch,
"coming after us to oppose our landing." Nobody expected to see any
ships in these untraversed waters, and we can easily picture the
amazement of officers, crews, and convicts when the white sails
appeared. The more timid speculated on the possibility of attack, and
there were "temporary apprehensions, accompanied by a multiplicity of
conjectures, many of them sufficiently ridiculous."

Phillip, however, remembered hearing that the French had an expedition
of discovery either in progress or contemplation. He was the first to
form a right opinion about them, but, wishing to be certain, sent the
SUPPLY out of the bay to get a nearer view and hoist the British
colours. Lieutenant Ball, in command of that brig, after reconnoitring,
reported that the ships were certainly not English. They were either
French, Spanish or Portuguese. He could distinctly see the white field
of the flag they flew, "but they were at too great a distance to
discover if there was anything else on it." The flag, of course, showed
the golden lilies of France on a white ground. One of the ships, King
records, "wore a CHEF D'ESCADRE'S pennant," that is, a commodore's.

This information satisfied Phillip, who was anxious to lose no time in
getting his people ashore at Sydney Cove. He, therefore, determined to
sail in the SUPPLY on the 25th, to make preliminary arrangements,
leaving Captain Hunter of the SIRIUS to convoy the Fleet round as soon
as possible. The wind, just then, was blowing too strong for them to
work out of the Bay.

Meanwhile, Laperouse, with the BOUSSOLE and the ASTROLABE, was meeting
with heavy weather in his attempt to double Point Solander. The
wind blew hard from that quarter, and his ships were too heavy sailers
to force their passage against wind and current combined. The whole of
the 24th was spent in full sight of Botany Bay, which they could not
enter. But their hearts were cheered by the spectacle of the pennants
and ensigns on the eleven British vessels, plainly seen at intervals
within, and the prospect of meeting Europeans again made them impatient
to fetch their anchorage.

The SIRIUS was just about to sail when the French vessels entered the
Bay at nine in the morning of January 26, but Captain Hunter
courteously sent over a lieutenant and midshipman, with his compliments
and offers of such assistance as it was in his power to give. "I
despatched an officer," records Laperouse, "to return my thanks to
Captain Hunter, who by this time had his anchor a-peak and his topsails
hoisted, telling him that my wants were confined to wood and water, of
which we could not fail in this Bay; and I was sensible that vessels
intended to settle a colony at such a distance from Europe could not be
of any assistance to navigators." The English lieutenant, according to
Laperouse, "appeared to make a great mystery of Commodore Phillip's
plan, and we did not take the liberty of putting any questions to him
on the subject." It was not the business of a junior officer to give
unauthorised information, but perhaps his manner made a greater mystery
of the Governor's plans than the circumstances required.

It was at Kamchatka that the French had learnt that the British
were establishing a settlement in New South Wales; but Laperouse, when
he arrived at Botany Bay, had no definite idea as to the progress they
had made. According to Lieutenant-Colonel Paterson, he expected to find
a town built and a market established. Instead of that he found the
first colonists abandoning the site where it was originally intended
that they should settle, and preparing to fix their abode at another
spot. But after he had seen something of Botany Bay he expressed
himself as "convinced of the propriety and absolute necessity of the

The later relations between the English and French were of the most
pleasant kind. It does not appear from the writings of those who have
left records that Phillip and Laperouse ever met, or that the latter
ever saw the beginnings of Sydney. His ships certainly never entered
Port Jackson. But we learn from Captain Tench that "during their stay
in the port" (i.e. in Botany Bay) "the officers of the two nations had
frequent opportunities of testifying their mutual regard by visits and
other interchanges of friendship and esteem;" and Laperouse gratified
the English especially "by the feeling manner in which he always
mentioned the name and talents of Captain Cook."

Not only in what he wrote with an eye to publication, but in his
private correspondence, Laperouse expressed his gratification at the
friendly relations established. He spoke of "frequent intercourse"
with the English, and said that "to the most polite attentions
they have added every offer of service in their power; and it was not
without regret that we saw them depart, almost immediately upon our
arrival, for Port Jackson, fifteen miles to the northward of this
place. Commodore Phillip had good reason to prefer that port, and he
has left us sole masters of this bay, where our long-boats are already
on the stocks."

The fullest account is given in the journal of Lieutenant King,
afterwards (1800-6) Governor of New South Wales. On February 1 Phillip
sent him in a cutter, in company with Lieutenant Dawes of the Marines,
to visit Laperouse, "and to offer him whatever he might have occasion
for." King relates that they were "received with the greatest
politeness and attention by Monsieur de Laperouse and his officers." He
accepted an invitation to remain during the day with the French, to
dine with the Commodore, and to return to Port Jackson next morning.
The complete history of the voyage was narrated to him, including of
course the tragic story of the massacre of de Langle and his

After dinner on the BOUSSOLE, King was taken ashore, where he found the
French "quite established, having thrown round their tents a stockade,
guarded by two small guns." This defence was needed to protect the
frames of the two new longboats, which were being put together, from
the natives; and also, it would appear, from a few escaped convicts,
"whom he had dismissed with threats, giving them a day's
provision to carry them back to ye settlement." Laperouse himself, in
his history--in the very last words of it, in fact--complains that
"we had but too frequent opportunities of hearing news of the English
settlement, the deserters from which gave us a great deal of trouble
and embarrassment."

We learn from King a little about the Pere Receveur--a very little,
truly, but sufficient to make us wish to know more. From the
circumstance that his quarters were on the ASTROLABE, and that,
therefore, he was not brought very much under the notice of Laperouse,
we read scarcely anything about him in the commander's book. Once
during the voyage some acids used by him for scientific purposes
ignited, and set fire to the ship, but the danger was quickly
suppressed. This incident, and that of the wounding of Receveur at
Manua, are nearly all we are told about him from the commander. But he
struck King as being "a man of letters and genius." He was a collector
of natural curiosities, having under his care "a great number of
philosophical instruments." King's few lines, giving the impression
derived from a necessarily brief conversation, seem to bring the Abbe
before us in a flash. "A man of letters and genius": how gladly we
would know more of one of whom those words could be written! Receveur
died shortly before Laperouse sailed away, and was buried at the foot
of a tree, to which were nailed a couple of boards bearing an
inscription. Governor Phillip, when the boards fell down, had
the inscription engraved on a copper plate. The tomb, which is now so
prominent an object at Botany Bay, was erected by the Baron de
Bougainville in 1825. The memorials to the celebrated navigator and the
simple scholar stand together.

King, in common with Tench, records the admiring way in which Laperouse
spoke of Cook. He "informed me that every place where he has touched or
been near, he found all the astronomical and nautical works of Captain
Cook to be very exact and true, and concluded by saying, 'Enfin,
Monsieur Cook a tant fait qu'il ne m'a rien laisse a faire que d'
admirer ses oeuvres.'" (In short, Mr. Cook has done so much that he has
left me nothing to do but to admire his works).

There is very little more to tell about those few weeks spent at Botany
Bay before the navigator and his companions "vanished trackless into
blue immensity," as Carlyle puts it. A fragment of conversation is
preserved by Tench. A musket was fired one day, and the natives
marvelled less at the noise than at the fact that the bullet made a
hole in a piece of bark at which it was aimed. To calm them, "an
officer whistled the air of 'Malbrook,' which they appeared highly
charmed with, and greeted him with equal pleasure and readiness. I may
remark here," adds the Captain of Marines, "what I was afterwards told
by Monsieur de Perousse" (so he mis-spells the name) "that the natives
of California, as throughout all the isles of the Pacific Ocean,
and in short wherever he had been, seemed equally touched and delighted
with this little plaintive air." It is gratifying to be able to record
Captain Tench's high opinion of the efficacy of the tune, which is
popularly known nowadays as "We won't go home till morning." One has
often heard of telling things "to the Marines." This gallant officer,
doubtless, used to whistle them, to a "little plaintive air."

It was the practice of Laperouse to sow seeds at places visited by his
ships, with the object of experimenting with useful European plants
that might be cultivated in other parts of the world. His own letters
and journal do not show that he did so at Botany Bay; but we have other
evidence that he did, and that the signs of cultivation had not
vanished at least ten years later. When George Bass was returning to
Sydney in February, 1798, at the end of that wonderful cruise in a
whaleboat which had led to the discovery of Westernport, he was
becalmed off Botany Bay. He was disposed to enter and remain there for
the night, but his journal records that his people--the six picked
British sailors who were the companions of his enterprise--"seemed
inclined to push for home rather than go up to the Frenchman's Garden."
Therefore, the wind failing, they took to the oars and rowed to Port
Jackson, reaching home at ten o'clock at night. That is a very
interesting allusion. The Frenchman's Garden must have been somewhere
within the enclosed area where the Cable Station now stands, and it
would be well if so pleasant a name, and one so full of
historical suggestion, were still applied to that reserve.

It may be well to quote in full the passage in which Laperouse relates
his experience of Botany Bay. He was not able to write his journal up
to the date of his departure before despatching it to Europe, but the
final paragraphs in it sufficiently describe what occurred, and what he
thought. Very loose and foolish statements have occasionally been
published as to his object in visiting the port. In one of the
geographical journals a few years ago the author saw it stated that
there was "a race for a Continent" between the English and the French,
in which the former won by less than a week! Nonsense of that sort,
even though it appears in sober publications, issued with a scientific
purpose, can emanate only from those who have no real acquaintance with
the subject. There was no race, no struggle for priority, no thought of
territorial acquisition on the part of the French. The reader of this
little book knows by this time that the visit to Botany Bay was not
originally contemplated. It was not in the programme.

What would have happened if Laperouse had safely returned home, and if
the French Revolution had not destroyed Louis XVI and blown his
exploration and colonisation schemes into thin air, is quite another
question; but "ifs" are not history. You can entirely reconstruct the
history of the human race by using enough "ifs," but with that
sort of thing, which an ironist has termed "Iftory," and is often more
amusing than enlightening, more speculative than sound, we have at
present nothing to do. Here is the version of the visit given by
Laperouse himself:--

"We made the land on the 23rd January. It has little elevation, and is
scarcely possible to be seen at a greater distance than twelve leagues.
The wind then became very variable; and, like Captain Cook, we met with
currents, which carried us every day fifteen minutes south of our
reckoning; so that we spent the whole of the 24th in plying in sight of
Botany Bay, without being able to double Point Solander, which bore
from us a league north. The wind blew strong from that quarter, and our
ships were too heavy sailers to surmount the force of the wind and the
currents combined; but that day we had a spectacle to which we had been
altogether unaccustomed since our departure from Manilla. This was a
British squadron, at anchor in Botany Bay, the pennants and ensigns of
which we could plainly distinguish. All Europeans are countrymen at
such a distance from home, and we had the most eager impatience to
fetch the anchorage; but the next day the weather was so foggy that it
was impossible to discern the land, and we did not get in till the
26th, at nine in the morning, when we let go our anchor a mile from the
north shore, in seven fathoms of water, on a good bottom of grey sand,
abreast of the second bay.

"The moment I made my appearance in the entrance of the Bay, a
lieutenant and midshipman were sent aboard my vessel by Captain Hunter,
commanding the British frigate SIRIUS. They offered from him all the
services in his power; adding, however, that, as he was just getting
under way to proceed to the northward, circumstances would not allow
him to furnish us with provision, ammunition or sails; so that his
offers of service were reduced to good wishes for the future success of
our voyage.

"I despatched an officer to return my thanks to Captain Hunter, who by
this time had his anchor a-peak, and his topsails hoisted; telling him
that my wants were confined to wood and water, of which we could not
fail in this Bay; and I was sensible that vessels intended to settle a
colony at such a distance from Europe, could not be of any assistance
to navigators.

"From the lieutenant we learnt that the English squadron was commanded
by Commodore Phillip, who had sailed from Botany Bay the previous
evening in the SUPPLY, sloop, with four transports, in search of a more
commodious place for a settlement further north. The lieutenant
appeared to make a great mystery of Commodore Phillip's plan, and we
did not take the liberty of putting any questions to him on the
subject; but we had no doubt that the intended settlement must be very
near Botany Bay, since several boats were under sail for the place, and
the passage certainly must be very short, as it was thought unnecessary
to hoist them on board. The crew of the English boat, less discreet
than their officer, soon informed our people that they were only
going to Port Jackson, sixteen miles north of Point Banks, where
Commander Phillip had himself reconnoitred a very good harbour, which
ran ten miles into the land, to the south-west, and in which the ships
might anchor within pistol-shot of the shore, in water as smooth as
that of a basin. We had, afterwards, but too frequent opportunities of
hearing news of the English settlement, the deserters from which gave
us a great deal of trouble and embarrassment."

Pieced together thus is nearly all we know about Laperouse during his
visit to Botany Bay. It is not much. We would gladly have many more
details. What has become of the letter he wrote to Phillip recommending
(according to King) the Pacific Islands as worthy of the attention of
the new colony, "for the great quantity of stock with which they
abound"? Apparently it is lost. The grave and the deep have swallowed
up the rest of this "strange eventful history," and we interrogate in
vain. We should know even less than we do were it not that Laperouse
obtained from Phillip permission to send home, by the next British ship
leaving Port Jackson, his journal, some charts, and the drawings of his
artists. This material, added to private letters and a few
miscellaneous papers, was placed in charge of Lieutenant Shortland to
be delivered to the French Ambassador in London, and formed part of the
substance of the two volumes and atlas published in Paris.

* * * * *

It may be well to cite, as a note to this chapter, the books in
which contemporary accounts of the visit of Laperouse and his ships to
Botany Bay are to be found. Some readers may thereby be tempted to look
into the original authorities. Laperouse's own narrative is contained
in the third and fourth volumes of his "Voyage autour du Monde," edited
by Milet-Mureau (Paris, 1797). There are English translations. A few
letters at the end of the work give a little additional information.
Governor Phillip's "Voyage to Botany Bay" (London, 1789) contains a
good but brief account. Phillip's despatch to the Secretary of State,
Lord Sydney, printed in the "Historical Records of New South Wales,"
Vol. I., part 2, p. 121, devotes a paragraph to the subject. King's
Journal in Vol. II. of the "Records," p. 543-7, gives his story.
Surgeon Bowes' Journal, on page 391 of the same volume, contains a
rather picturesque allusion. Hunter's "Voyage to Botany Bay" (London,
1793) substantially repeats King's version. Captain Watkin Tench, of
the Marines, has a good account in his "Narrative of an Expedition to
Botany Bay" (London, 1789), and Paterson's "History of New South Wales"
(Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1811) makes an allusion to the French expedition.

Chapter VIII.


The BOUSSOLE and the ASTROLABE sailed from Botany Bay on March 10,
1788. After recording that fact we might well inscribe the pathetic
last words of Hamlet, "the rest is silence."

We know what Laperouse intended to do. He wrote two letters to friends
in France, explaining the programme to be followed after sailing from
Botany Bay. They do not agree in every particular, but we may take the
last letter written to express his final determination. According to
this, his plan was to sail north, passing between Papua ( New Guinea)
and Australia by another channel than Endeavour Strait, if he could
find one. During September and October he intended to visit the Gulf of
Carpentaria, and thence sail down the west and along the south of
Australia, to Tasmania, "but in such a manner that it may be possible
for me to stretch northward in time to arrive at Ile-de-France in the
beginning of December, 1788." That was the programme which he was not
destined to complete--hardly, indeed, to enter upon. Had he succeeded,
his name would have been inscribed amongst the memorable company of the
world's great maritime explorers. As it is, the glint on his
brow, as he stands in the light of history, is less that of achievement
than of high promise, noble aims, romance and mystery.

One of the letters sent from Sydney concluded with these words: "Adieu!
I shall depart in good health, as are all my ship's company. We would
undertake six voyages round the world if it could afford to our country
either profit or pleasure." They were not the last words he wrote, but
we may appropriately take them as being, not merely his adieu to a
friend, but to the world.

Time sped on; the date given for the arrival at Ile-de-France was
passed; the year 1789 dawned and ticked off the tally of its days. But
nothing was heard of Laperouse. People in France grew anxious, one
especially we may be sure--she who knew so well where the ships would
anchor in Port Louis if they emerged out of the ocean brume, and who
longed so ardently that renewed acquaintance with scenes once sweetly
familiar would awaken memories meet to give wings to speed and spurs to
delay. Not a word came to sustain or cheer, and the faint flush of hope
faded to the wan hue of despair on the cheek of love. By 1791 all
expectation of seeing the expedition return was abandoned. But could
not some news of its fate be ascertained? Had it faded out of being
like a summer cloud, leaving not a trace behind? Might not some inkling
be had, some small relics obtained, some whisper caught, in
those distant isles,

"Where the sea egg flames on the coral, and the long-backed breakers croon
Their endless ocean legend to the lazy, locked lagoon."

France was then in the throes of her great social earthquake; but it
stands to the credit of the National Assembly that, amidst many
turbulent projects and boiling passions, they found time and had the
disposition to cause the fitting out of a new expedition to search for
tidings of those whose disappearance weighed heavily on the heart of
the nation. The decree was passed on February 9, 1791.

Two ships, the RECHERCHE and the ESPERANCE, were selected and placed
under the command of Dentrecasteaux. He had already had some experience
in a part of the region to be searched, had been a governor of
Ile-de-France, and during a South Sea voyage had named the cluster of
islands east of Papua now called the D'Entrecasteaux Group. The second
ship was placed under the command of Captain Huon Kermadec. The Huon
River in Tasmania, and the Kermadec Islands, N.E. of New Zealand, are
named after him.

Fleurieu again drew up the instructions, and based them largely upon
the letter from Laperouse quoted above, pointing out that remains of
him would most probably be found in the neighbourhood of coasts which
he had intended to explore. It was especially indicated that there was,
south of New Holland, an immense stretch of coastline so far
utterly unknown. "No navigator has penetrated in that part of the sea;
the reconnaissances and discoveries of the Dutch, the English and the
French commenced at the south of Van Diemen's Land."

Thus, for the second time, was a French navigator directed to explore
the southern coasts of Australia; and had Dentrecasteaux followed the
plan laid down for him he would have forestalled the discoveries of
Grant, Bass and Flinders, just as Laperouse would have done had his
work not been cut short by disaster.

It has to be remembered that the instructions impressed upon
Dentrecasteaux that his business primarily was not geographical
discovery, but to get news of his lost compatriots. But even so, is it
not curious that the French should have been concerned with the
exploration of Southern Australia before the English thought about it;
that they should have had two shots at the task, planned with knowledge
and care, officially directed, and in charge of eminently competent
navigators; but that nevertheless their schemes should have gone awry?
They made a third attempt by means of Baudin's expedition, during the
Napoleonic Consulate, and again were unsuccessful, except in a very
small measure. It almost seems as if some power behind human endeavours
had intended these coasts for British finding--and keeping.

The full story of Dentrecasteaux' expedition has not yet been told. Two
thick books were written about it, but a mass of unpublished
papers contain details that were judiciously kept out of those volumes.
When the whole truth is made known, it will be seen that the bitter
strife which plunged France in an agony of blood and tears was not
confined to the land.

The ships did not visit Sydney. Why not? It might have been expected
that an expedition sent to discover traces of Laperouse would have been
careful to make Botany Bay in the first instance, and, after collecting
whatever evidence was available there, would have carefully followed
the route that he had proposed to pursue. But it would seem that an
European settlement was avoided. Why? The unpublished papers may
furnish an answer to that question.

Neither was the south coast of Australia explored. That great chance
was missed. Some excellent charting--which ten years later commanded
the cordial admiration of Flinders--was done by Beautemps-Beaupre, who
was Dentrecasteaux' cartographer, especially round about the S.W.
corner of the continent. Esperance Bay, in Western Australia, is named
after one of the ships of this expedition. But from that corner, his
ships being short of fresh water, Dentrecasteaux sailed on a direct
line to Southern Tasmania, and thence to New Zealand, New Caledonia,
and New Guinea. Touch with the only European centre in these parts was
--apparently with deliberation--not obtained.

Dentrecasteaux died while his ships were in the waters to the
north of New Guinea. He fell violently ill, raving at first, then
subsiding into unconsciousness, a death terrible to read about in the
published narrative, where the full extent of his troubles is not
revealed. Kermadec, commander of the ESPERANCE, also died at New
Caledonia. After their decease the ships returned to France as rapidly
as they could. They were detained by the Dutch at Sourabaya for several
months, as prisoners of war, and did not reach Europe till March, 1796.
Their mission had been abortive.

Five French Captains who brought expeditions to Australia at this
period all ended in misfortune. Laperouse was drowned; de Langle was
murdered; Dentrecasteaux died miserably at sea; Kermadec, the fourth,
had expired shortly before; and Baudin, the fifth, died at Port Louis
on the homeward voyage.

Nor is even that the last touch of melancholy to the tale of tragedy.
There was a young poet who was touched by the fate of Laperouse. Andre
Chenier is now recognised as one of the finest masters of song who have
enriched French literature, and his poems are more and more studied and
admired both by his own countrymen and abroad. He planned and partly
finished a long poem, "L'Amerique," which contains a mournful passage
about the mystery of the sea which had not then been solved. A
translation of the lines will not be attempted here; they are mentioned
because the poet himself had an end as tragic, though in a
different mode, as that of the hero of whom he sang. He came under the
displeasure of the tyrants of the Red Terror through his friends and
his writings, and in March, 1794, the guillotine took this brilliant
young genius as a victim.

J'accuserai les vents et cette mer jalouse
Qui retient, qui peut-etre a ravi Laperouse

so the poem begins. How strangely the shadow of Tragedy hangs over this
ill-starred expedition; Louis XVI the projector, Laperouse and de
Langle the commanders, Dentrecasteaux and Kermadec the searchers, Andre
Chenier the laureate: the breath of the black-robed Fury was upon them

Chapter IX.


The navigators of all nations were fascinated by the mystery attaching
to the fate of Laperouse. Every ship that sailed the Pacific hoped to
obtain tidings or remains. From time to time rumours arose of the
discovery of relics. One reported the sight of wreckage; another that
islanders had been seen dressed in French uniforms; another that a
cross of St. Louis had been found. But the element of probability in
the various stories evaporated on investigation. Flinders, sailing
north from Port Jackson in the INVESTIGATOR in 1802, kept a sharp
lookout on the Barrier Reef, the possibility of finding some trace
being "always present to my mind." But no definite news came.

A new French voyage of exploration came down to the Pacific in 1817,
under the command of Louis de Freycinet, who had been a lieutenant in
Baudin's expedition in 1800-4. The purpose was not chiefly to look for
evidence concerning Laperouse, though naturally a keen scrutiny was
maintained with this object in view.

An extremely queer fact may be mentioned in connection with this
voyage. The URANIE carried a woman among the crew, the only one of her
sex amidst one hundred men. Madame de Freycinet, the wife of the
commandant, joined at Toulon, dressed as a ship's boy, and it was given
out in the newspapers that her husband was very much surprised when he
found that his wife had managed to get aboard in disguise. But Arago,
one of the scientific staff, tells us in his Memoirs, published in
1837, that--as we can well believe--Freycinet knew perfectly who the
"young and pretty" boy was, and had connived at her joining the ship as
a lad, because she wanted to accompany her husband, and the authorities
would have prevented her had they known. She continued to wear her
boy's dress until after the ships visited Gibraltar, for Arago informs
us that the solemn British Lieutenant-Governor there, when he saw her,
broke into a smile, "the first perhaps that his features had worn for
ten years." If that be true, the little lady surely did a little good
by her saucy escapade. But official society regarded the lady in
trousers with a frigid stare, so that henceforth she deemed it discreet
to resume feminine garments. It does not appear that she passed for a
boy when the expedition visited Sydney, and of course no hint of
Madame's presence is given in the official history of the voyage.

We now reach the stage when the veil was lifted and the mystery
explained. In 1813 the East India Company's ship HUNTER, voyaging from
Calcutta to Sydney, called at the Fiji Islands. They discovered that
several Europeans were living on one of the group. Some had been
shipwrecked; some had deserted from vessels; but they had become
accustomed to the life and preferred it. The HUNTER employed a party of
them to collect sandal wood and beche-de-mer, one of her junior
officers, Peter Dillon, being in charge. A quarrel with natives
occurred, and all the Europeans were murdered, except Dillon, a
Prussian named Martin Bushart, and a seaman, William Wilson. After the
affray Bushart would certainly have been slain had he remained, so he
induced the captain of the HUNTER to give him a passage to the first
land reached. Accordingly Bushart, a Fiji woman who was his wife, and a
Lascar companion, were landed on Barwell Island, or Tucopia.

Thirteen years later Peter Dillon was sailing in command of his own
ship, the ST. PATRICK, from Valparaiso to Pondicherry, when he sighted
Tucopia. Curiosity prompted him to stop to enquire whether his old
friend Martin Bushart was still alive. He hove to, and shortly after
two canoes put off from the land, bringing Bushart and the Lascar, both
in excellent health.

Now, Dillon observed that the Lascar sold an old silver sword guard to
one of the ST. PATRICK'S crew in return for a few fish hooks. This made
him inquisitive. He asked the Prussian where it came from. Bushart
informed him that when he first arrived at the island he saw in
possession of the natives, not only this sword guard, but also several
chain plates, iron bolts, axes, the handle of a silver fork, some
knives, tea cups, beads, bottles, a silver spoon bearing a crest and
monogram, and a sword. He asked where these articles were
obtained, and the natives told him that they got them from the
Mannicolo (or Vanikoro) cluster of islands, two days' canoe voyage from
Tucopia, in the Santa Cruz group.

"Upon examining the sword minutely" wrote Dillon, "I discovered, or
thought I discovered, the initials of Perouse stamped on it, which
excited my suspicion and made me more exact in my inquiries. I then, by
means of Bushart and the Lascar, questioned some of the islanders
respecting the way in which their neighbours procured the silver and
iron articles. They told me that the natives of Mannicolo stated that
many years ago two large ships arrived at their islands; one anchored
at the island of Whanoo, and the other at the island of Paiou, a little
distance from each other. Some time after they anchored, and before
they had any communication with the natives, a heavy gale arose and
both vessels were driven ashore. The ship that was anchored off Whanoo
grounded upon the rocks.

"The natives came in crowds to the seaside, armed with clubs, spears,
and bows and arrows, and shot some arrows into the ship, and the crew
in return fired the guns and some musketry on them and killed several.
The vessel, continuing to beat violently against the rocks, shortly
afterwards went to pieces. Some of the crew took to their boats, and
were driven on shore, where they were to a man murdered on landing by
the infuriated natives. Others threw themselves into the sea; but if
they reached the shore it was only to share the fate of their
wretched comrades, so that not a single soul escaped out of this

The ship wrecked on Paiou, according to the natives' story, was driven
on a sandy beach. Some arrows were fired into her, but the crew did not
fire. They were restrained, and held up beads, axes, and toys, making a
demonstration of friendliness. As soon as the wind abated, an old chief
came aboard the wrecked ship, where he was received in friendly
fashion, and, going ashore, pacified his people. The crew of the
vessel, compelled to abandon her, carried the greater part of their
stores ashore, where they built a small boat from the remains of the
wreck. As soon as this craft was ready to sail, as many as could
conveniently be taken embarked and sailed away. They were never heard
of again. The remainder of the crew remained on the island until they

Such was the information collected by Captain Peter Dillon in 1826. He
took away with him the sword guard, but regretted to learn that the
silver spoon had been beaten into wire by Bushart for making rings and
ornaments for female islanders.

When he reached Calcutta, Dillon wrote an account of his discovery in a
letter to the government of Bengal, and suggested that he should be
sent in command of an expedition to search the Vanikoro cluster in the
hope of finding some old survivor of Laperouse's unhappy company, or at
all events further remains of the ships. He had prevailed upon
Martin Bushart to accompany him to India, and hoped, through this man's
knowledge of the native tongue, to elicit all that was to be known.

The Government of British India became interested in Dillon's
discovery, and resolved to send him in command of a ship to search for
further information. At the end of 1826 he sailed in the RESEARCH, and
in September of the following year came within sight of the high-peaked
island Tucopia. The enquiries made on this voyage fully confirmed and
completed the story, and left no room for doubt that the ships of
Laperouse had been wrecked and his whole company massacred or drowned
on or near Vanikoro. Many natives still living remembered the arrival
of the French. Some of them related that they thought those who came on
the big ships to be not men but spirits; and such a grotesque bit of
description as was given of the peaks of cocked hats exactly expressed
the way in which the appearance of the strangers would be likely to
appeal to the native imagination:--" There was a projection from their
foreheads or noses a foot long."

Furthermore, Dillon's officers were able to purchase from the islands
such relics as an old sword blade, a rusted razor, a silver sauce-boat
with fleur-de-lis upon it, a brass mortar, a few small bells, a silver
sword-handle bearing a cypher, apparently a "P" with a crown, part of a
blacksmith's vice, the crown of a small anchor, and many other
articles. An examination of natives brought out a few further
details, as for example, a description of the chief of the strangers,
"who used always to be looking at the stars and the sun and beckoning
to them," which is how a native would be likely to regard a man making
astronomical observations. Dillon, in short had solved the forty years'
mystery. The Pacific had revealed her long-held secret.

It happened that a new French expedition in the ASTROLABE, under the
command of Dumont-D'Urville, was in the southern hemisphere at this
time. While he lay at Hobart on his way to New Zealand, the captain
heard of Dillon's discoveries, and, at once changing his plans, sailed
for the Santa Cruz Islands. He arrived there in February, 1828, and
made some valuable finds to supplement those of the English captain. At
the bottom of the sea, in perfectly clear water, he saw lying,
encrusted with coral, some remains of anchors, chains, guns, bullets,
and other objects which had clearly belonged to the ships of Laperouse.
One of his artists made a drawing of them on the spot. They were
recovered, and, together with Dillon's collection, are now exhibited in
a pyramid at the Marine Museum at the Louvre in Paris, in memory of the
ill-fated commander and crew who perished, martyrs in the great cause
of discovery, a century and a quarter ago.

It is interesting to note that descendants of Captain Dillon are
residents of Sydney to this day.

Chapter X.


Intellectually, and as a navigator, Laperouse was a son of James Cook,
and he himself would have rejoiced to be so described. The allusions to
his predecessor in his writings are to be numbered by scores, and the
note of reverent admiration is frequently sounded. He followed Cook's
guidance in the management of his ships, paying particular attention to
the diet of his crews. He did not succeed in keeping scurvy at bay
altogether, but when the disease made its appearance he met it promptly
by securing fresh vegetable food for the sufferers, and was so far
successful that when he arrived in Botany Bay his whole company was in
good health.

The influence of the example and experience of Cook may be illustrated
in many ways, some of them curious. We may take a point as to which he
really had little to fear; but he knew what had occurred in Cook's case
and he was anxious that the same should not happen to him. The
published story of Cook's first South Sea Voyage, as is well known, was
not his own. His journal was handed over to Dr. Hawkesworth, a
gentleman who tried to model his literary style on that of Dr. Johnson,
and evolved a pompous, big-drum product in consequence.
Hawkesworth garnished the manly, straightforward navigator's simple and
direct English with embellishments of his own. Where Cook was plain
Hawkesworth was ornate; where Cook was sensible Hawkesworth was silly;
where Cook was accurate, Hawkesworth by stuffing in his own precious
observations made the narrative unreliable, and even ridiculous. In
fact, the gingerbread Johnson simply spoiled Cook.

Dr. Johnson was by no means gratified by the ponderous prancings of his
imitator. We learn from Boswell that when the great man met Captain
Cook at a dinner given by the President of the Royal Society, he said
that he "was much pleased with the conscientious accuracy of that
celebrated circumnavigator, who set me right as to many of the
exaggerated accounts given by Dr. Hawkesworth of his voyages." Cook
himself was annoyed by the decorating of his story, and resented the
treatment strongly.

Laperouse knew this, and was very anxious that nobody in France should
Hawkesworthify him. He did not object to being carefully edited, but he
did not want to be decorated. He wrote excellent French narrative
prose, and his work may be read with delight. Its qualities of clarity,
picturesqueness and smoothness, are quite in accord with the fine
traditions of the language. But, as it was likely that part of the
history of his voyage might be published before his return, he did not
want it to be handed over to anybody who would trick it out in
finery, and he therefore wrote the following letter:

"If my journal be published before my return, let the editing of it by
no means be entrusted to a man of letters; for either he will sacrifice
to the turn of a phrase the proper terms which the seaman and man of
learning would prefer, but which to him will appear harsh and
barbarous; or, rejecting all the nautical and astronomical details, and
endeavouring to make a pleasing romance, he will for want of the
knowledge his education has not allowed him to acquire, commit mistakes
which may prove fatal to those who shall follow me. But choose an
editor versed in the mathematical sciences, who is capable of
calculating and comparing my data with those of other investigators, of
rectifying errors which may have escaped me, and of guarding himself
against the commission of others. Such an editor will preserve the
substance of the work; will omit nothing that is essential; will give
technical details the harsh and rude, but concise style of a seaman;
and will well perform his task in supplying my place and publishing the
work as I would have done it myself."

That letter is a rather singular effect of Laperouse's study of Cook,
which might be illustrated by further examples. The influence of the
great English sailor is the more remarkable when we remember that there
had been early French navigators to the South Seas before Laperouse.
There was the elder Bougainville, the discoverer of the
Navigator Islands; there was Marion-Dufresne, who was killed and eaten
by Maoris in 1772; there was Surville--to mention only three.
Laperouse knew of them, and mentioned them. But they had little to
teach him. In short and in truth, he belonged to the school of Cook,
and that is an excellent reason why English and especially Australian
people should have an especial regard for him.

The disastrous end of Laperouse's expedition before he had completed
his task prevented him from adequately realising his possibilities as a
discoverer. As pointed out in the preceding pages, if he had completed
his voyage, he would in all probability have found the southern coasts
of Australia in 1788. But the work that he actually did is not without
importance; and he unquestionably possessed the true spirit of the
explorer. When he entered upon this phase of his career he was a
thoroughly experienced seaman. He was widely read in voyaging
literature, intellectually well endowed, alert-minded, eager,
courageous, and vigorous. The French nation has had no greater sailor
than Laperouse.

De Lesseps, the companion of his voyage as far as Kamchatka, has left a
brief but striking characterisation of him. "He was," says this
witness, "an accomplished gentleman, perfectly urbane and full of wit,
and possessed of those charming manners which pertained to the
eighteenth century. He was always agreeable in his relations with
subordinates and officers alike." The same writer tells us that
when Louis XVI gave him the command of the expedition he had the
reputation of being the ablest seaman in the French navy.

Certainly he was no common man to whose memory stands that tall
monument at Botany Bay. It was erected at the cost of the French
Government by the Baron de Bougainville, in 1825, and serves not only
as a reminder of a fine character and a full, rich and manly life, but
of a series of historical events that are of capital consequence in the
exploration and occupation of Australia.

It will be appropriate to conclude this brief biography with a tribute
to the French navigator from the pen of an English poet. Thomas
Campbell is best remembered by such vigorous poems as "Ye Mariners of
England," and "The Battle of the Baltic," which express a tense and
elevated British patriotism. All the more impressive for that very
reason is his elegy in honour of a sailor of another nation, whose
merits as a man and whose charm as a writer Campbell had recognised
from his boyhood. The following are his.


Loved Voyager! whose pages had a zest
More sweet than fiction to my wondering breast,
When, rapt in fancy, many a boyish day
I tracked his wanderings o'er the watery way,
Roamed round the Aleutian isles in waking dreams,
Or plucked the fleur-de-lys by Jesso's streams,
Or gladly leaped on that far Tartar strand,
Where Europe's anchor ne'er had bit the sand,
Where scarce a roving wild tribe crossed the plain,
Or human voice broke nature's silent reign,--
But vast and grassy deserts feed the bear,
And sweeping deer-herds dread no hunter's snare.
Such young delight his real records brought,
His truth so touched romantic springs of thought,
That, all my after life, his fate and fame
Entwined romance with Laperouse's name.
Fair were his ships, expert his gallant crews,
And glorious was the emprise of Laperouse--
Humanely glorious! Men will weep for him,
When many a guilty martial fame is dim:
He ploughed the deep to bind no captive's chain--
Pursued no rapine--strewed no wreck with slain;
And, save that in the deep themselves lie low,
His heroes plucked no wreath from human woe.
'Twas his the earth's remotest bounds to scan,
Conciliating with gifts barbaric man--
Enrich the world's contemporaneous mind,
And amplify the picture of mankind.
Far on the vast Pacific, 'midst those isles
O'er which the earliest morn of Asia smiles,
He sounded and gave charts to many a shore
And gulf of ocean new to nautic lore;
Yet he that led discovery o'er the wave,
Still finds himself an undiscovered grave.
He came not back! Conjecture's cheek grew pale,
Year after year; in no propitious gale
His lilied banner held its homeward way,
And Science saddened at her martyr's stay.
An age elapsed: no wreck told where or when
The chief went down with all his gallant men,
Or whether by the storm and wild sea flood
He perished, or by wilder men of blood.
The shuddering fancy only guess'd his doom,
And doubt to sorrow gave but deeper gloom.
An age elapsed: when men were dead or gray,
Whose hearts had mourned him in their youthful day,
Fame traced on Vanikoro's shore at last,
The boiling surge had mounted o'er his mast.
The islesmen told of some surviving men,
But Christian eyes beheld them ne'er again.
Sad bourne of all his toils--with all his band
To sleep, wrecked, shroudless, on a savage strand!
Yet what is all that fires a hero's scorn
Of death?--the hope to live in hearts unborn.
Life to the brave is not its fleeting breath,
But worth--foretasting fame that follows death.
That worth had Laperouse, that meed he won.
He sleeps--his life's long stormy watch is done.
In the great deep, whose boundaries and space
He measured, fate ordained his resting place;
But bade his fame, like th' ocean rolling o'er
His relics, visit every earthly shore.
Fair Science on that ocean's azure robe
Still writes his name in picturing the globe,
And paints (what fairer wreath could glory twine?)
His watery course--a world-encircling line.


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