Australasia 1794: Australasia and the French Revolution
In 1789 the French Revolution forced King Louis XVI of France to accept a constitutional monarchy. Under this reformed regime, the French sent the naval officer d’Entrecasteaux to Australasia with two frigates to find traces of the explorer La Pérouse, who had last been seen leaving Botany Bay in 1788. The expedition spent two years unsuccessfully searching the region—during which d’Entrecasteaux himself died of scurvy (1793)—before arriving in the Dutch East Indies to discover that the revolutionaries had gained control in France, proclaimed a republic, executed the king, and were now at war with much of Europe. A royalist, the new expedition leader surrendered both his ships to the Dutch.
5 May 1789–9 Nov 1799 French Revolution▲
In 1789 revolution broke out in France, leading to the empowering of members of the Third Estate (commoners) and the abolition of feudalism. After defeating internal and external attempts to suppress the revolution, the French proclaimed a republic in 1792 and executed the deposed King Louis XVI the following year. Instability in France continued until 1799 when the military hero Napoléon Bonaparte seized power in a coup d’état.
7 Sep 1790 Spearing of Governor Phillip▲
In September 1790 Arthur Phillip, Governor of the British colony of New South Wales, landed at Manly Cove, north of Sydney, to investigate an Aboriginal gathering there (they were feasting on a whale). Following otherwise peaceful talks and an exchange of gifts, Phillip was approached by Wileemarin—a native of nearby Broken Bay—who speared him in a misunderstanding. Phillip survived and ordered there be no retaliation over what he considered a mistake.
9 Dec 1790–2 Jun 1802 Pemulwuy’s War▲
In December 1790 some Bidjigal tribesmen led by Pemulwuy speared Governor Arthur Phillip’s gamekeeper, John McIntyre, near Botany Bay in the British colony of New South Wales, possibly in retaliation for McIntyre’s suspected killing of Aborigines. In response Governor Phillip ordered a 49 marine expedition—the largest in the colony thus far—to hunt down Pemulwuy but was unsuccessful. Pemulwuy continued mounting raids against the colony until 1802 when, convinced of his invulnerability to bullets, he was shot and killed by blind British sailor Henry Hacking.
28 Mar–5 Jun 1791 Mary Bryant’s escape▲
In March 1791 the convicts William and Mary Bryant, their two children, and several other prisoners escaped from the British penal colony of New South Wales by stealing Governor Arthur Phillip’s six-oared cutter. Voyaging for sixty-six days and covering 5,000 kilometers, they made their way from Sydney to Kupang in the Dutch East Indies, navigating both the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Straits. Upon arrival, the survivors were soon exposed as convicts and arrested by the Dutch authorities.
28 Sep 1791–18 Feb 1794 D’Entrecasteaux Expedition▲
In 1791 the French Assembly decided to send an expedition in search of Jean-François de La Pérouse, who had disappeared after leaving Botany Bay in March 1788. Under the command of Bruni d’Entrecasteaux and comprising the frigates Recherche and Espérance, the expedition left Brest in September, entering the Pacific via Cape Town and the south coast of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) before exploring New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, and the northern islands of New Guinea in 1792. Resupplying at Ambon in the Dutch East Indies, d’Entrecasteaux made a second circuit of the region, traveling along the southern Australian coast to reach Tonga via the northern cape of New Zealand in 1793 and then back to northern New Guinea. Still unsuccessful in his search, d’Entrecasteaux died of scurvy off the Hermit Islands. Command passed to Auribeau, who, upon learning that a republic had been proclaimed in France, surrendered both ships to the Dutch in February 1794.
25 Oct 1793–Apr 1795 Fort Coronation▲
In October 1793 Captain John Hayes raised the British flag at what he called Restoration Bay (now Dore Bay, Manokwari) in western New Guinea, claiming the surrounding area as New Albion. There he established Fort Coronation as a post to trade in spices, particularly massoy bark and nutmeg. Lacking support from the British East India Company—which was diverted by war with France—and facing hostile natives, the settlement last just a year and a half before being abandoned.