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Terre Napoleón; a History of French Explorations and Projects in Australia   By: (1867-1939)

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First Page:

TERRE NAPOLEON.

A HISTORY OF FRENCH EXPLORATIONS AND PROJECTS IN AUSTRALIA

BY

ERNEST SCOTT.

WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS.

SECOND EDITION.

METHUEN & CO., LTD. 36 ESSEX STREET W.C. LONDON.

FIRST PUBLISHED JULY 7TH, 1910. SECOND EDITION 1911.

PREFACE.

The main object of this book is to exhibit the facts relative to the expedition despatched to Australia by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800 to 1804, and to consider certain opinions which have been for many years current regarding its purpose.

Until about five years ago the writer accepted without doubt the conclusions presented by leading authorities. One has to do that in regard to the vast mass of historical material, because, obviously, however much disposed one may be to form one's opinions on tested facts apart from the writings of historians, several lifetimes would not be sufficient for a man to inquire for himself as to the truth of a bare fraction of the conclusions with which research is concerned.

But it so happened that the writer was interested, for other reasons than those disclosed in the following pages, in ascertaining exactly what was done by the expedition commanded by Captain Nicolas Baudin on the coasts which were labelled Terre Napoleon. On scrutinising the facts somewhat narrowly, he was surprised to find that opinions accepted with unquestioning faith began to crumble away for lack of evidence to support them.

So much is stated by way of showing that the book has not been written to prove a conclusion formulated a priori, but with a sincere desire that the truth about the matter should be known. We read much in modern books devoted to the era of the Corsican about "the Napoleonic legend." There seems to be, just here, a little sporadic Napoleonic legend, to which vitality has been given from quarters whence have come some heavy blows at the larger one.

The plan adopted has been, after a preliminary sketch of the colonial situation of Great Britain and France in the period under review, to bring upon the scene the Terre Napoleon coasts the discovery ship Investigator, despatched by the British Government at about the same time as Napoleon's vessels were engaged upon their task, and to describe the meeting of the two captains, Flinders and Baudin, in Encounter Bay. Next, the coasts denominated Terre Napoleon are traversed, and an estimate is made of the original work done by Baudin, and of the serious omissions for which he was to blame. A second part of the subject is then entered upon. The origin of the expedition is traced, and the ships are carefully followed throughout their voyage, with a view to elicit whether there was, as alleged, a political purpose apart from the scientific work for which the enterprise was undertaken at the instance of the Institute of France.

The two main points which the book handles are: (1) whether Napoleon's object was to acquire territory in Australia and to found "a second fatherland" for the French there; and (2) whether it is true, as so often asserted, that the French plagiarised Flinders' charts for the purpose of constructing their own. On both these points conclusions are reached which are at variance with those commonly presented; but the evidence is placed before the reader with sufficient amplitude to enable him to arrive at a fair opinion on the facts, which, the author believes, are faithfully stated.

A third point of some importance, and which is believed to be quite new, relates to the representation of Port Phillip on the Terre Napoleon maps. It is a curious fact that, much as has been written on the early history of Australia, no writer, so far as the author is aware, has observed the marked conflict of evidence between Captain Baudin and his own officers as to that port having been seen by their discovery ships, and as to how the representation of it on the French maps got there. Inasmuch as Port Phillip is the most important harbour in the territory which was called Terre Napoleon, the matter is peculiarly interesting... Continue reading book >>




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