W. Bland Replies to Hume
To the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Sydney Morning Herald
1 March 1855
A small but somewhat violent tirade has just been put into my hands, entitled " A brief statement of facts in connection with an Overland Expedition from Lake George to Port Phillip, in 1824, by Hamilton Hume, edited by the Rev. William Ross, Goulburn." As the cause of this explosion is, I am given to understand (though neither that nor any other cause is very clearly deducible from the pamphlet itself), a printed narrative of this same journey, or rather the title-page of that narrative, drawn up and published by me nearly thirty years since, and which was re-published in 1837, possibly I may be considered as called upon for a reply.
I beg, then, to say, that I neither at the time when that narrative was published, nor since, ever had the slightest personal feeling or interest in that production - that I wrote it solely because, after repeated endeavours, I could not at the time, in our then very scanty community, find anyone else who was willing to undertake the writing of it - while I could not but deem the discoveries that had been made by the travellers, oven in those early days, as I have stated in the preface, and more particularly in the closing pages of the narrative Itself, as too highly interesting and important to be left unrecorded and unknown.
In the conducting of the narrative, I endeavoured to omit no one fact that could throw light on the subject, or affect the credit due to either traveller, without regard or favour to ether the one or the other; and even in the matter of giving precedence to the name of Mr. Hovell in the title page (the only subject of complaint that has ever reached my ears), if there has been any error, it is due to Mr. Hovell to observe, that each error is solely attributable to myself, and I trust when I come to state the grounds on which that precedence was given, if it even be an error, it will not appear altogether unpardonable.
The merits of the two travellers appeared to me equal, inasmuch as if the journey could not have been performed so well, if even at all, without Mr. Hume, there can be no less doubt as I think will appear on reference not only to my narrative, but to Mr. Hume's own statement itself, that the return of the party at all, and still more its triumphant return, without the loss of a single life, was mainly I attributable to Mr. Hovell's plain good sense and firmness.
But, waiving all farther consideration of this invidious and unpleasing topic, I must here state, that although I was then, as I am now, of opinion that the merits of the two travellers, as mere travellers, were as nearly balanced as possible, Mr. Hovell still had a special claim to consideration in as much as it was solely from Mr. Hovell's written journal, and more especially from the oral explanations and descriptions which I was enabled to obtain from that gentleman, the narrative drawn up by me was, or could have been, constructed; Mr. Hume's journal, or such portion of it as was put into my hands, being altogether too scanty, and in every respect too imperfect to afford me any assistance.
And as, therefore, but for Mr. Hovell, the journey itself must have been, at least as to the public, utterly unavailable, I conceived that I could not be very wrong in giving to Mr. Hovell's name the precedence (such as it is) in question - a precedence, however, which, to the best of my recollection, I have, as far as possible, neutralised in the body of the narative.
I hope and trust the above explanation will appear, even to Mr. Hume himself, ample - or, at least, that it will exonerate me with the impartial reader from all charge of intentional unfairness, and be viewed as an endeavour on my part to remove all possible, whether real or imaginary, grounds of future dissatisfaction.
The insinuation of some of the men on the expedition as to Mr. Hovell's want of courage-with which Mr. Hume has descended so as far to stain his pages - and that, too, at this very late period - are obviously too ridiculous to merit any reply beyond the mere passing remark, that not only the journal itself bears obvious internal evidence for its refutation, but that no one who knows Mr. Hovell could suspect him of being deficient of that personal courage and firmness which are the usual attributes of our countrymen, whether from the Tay, the Shannon, or the Thames.
In conclusion, I cannot but express my regret that Mr. Hume, after so long a silence (upward of thirty years), should have been persuaded to indulge himself in his present distempered and most uncalled for effusion; but notwithstanding which, I remain unshaken in my opinion, that Mr. Hume, together with his fellow traveller Mr. Hovell, deserve not only the thanks of our entire community for their exploit, but a something far more subtantial, and which I hope and trust, though late, they will yet receive.
Requesting the favour of your insertion of this communication in your columns.
I beg to subscribe myself, sir, yours obediently,
W. Bland. 25th February, 1855.