Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Colonial Events 1796

Estimated white population 4,016


Reward offered for Bushranger Black Caesar (Sydney)


Otter, commanded by Captain Ebenezer Dorr, was fitted out at Boston, and despatched to Sydney, where she anchored on 25 January 1796. Scottish Martyr Thomas Muir who had arrived on the Surprize in 1794, escaped from the colony on board the Otter.

January 16

Opening of the first theatre in Sydney. The first performance of Edward Young's drama The Revenge was followed by a farce called The Hotel. Robert Sidaway a First Fleet convict was behind the venture.


Arrival of store ship Ceres


Black Caesar shot and killed by pursuers.......
Historical Records of Australia Series 1 Governors' Despatches to and from England Volume 1 1788 - 1796 p 555.
Governor Hunter to The Duke of Portland {Extract}
We have now, my Lord, a band or two of banditti, who have armed themselves and infest the country all round, committing robberies upon defenceless people, and frequently joining the natives for that purpose; but as I have lately issued an Order in which a reward has been held out for the detection of those villains, as well as the discovery of another set of plagues, who, having been allowed a small quantity of ammunition for their own defence, there is reason to suspect they are in league with and supply these depredators, I have no doubt we shall soon be in possession of some of them. One of this gang (a black man convict has, since the publication of this Order, been discovered, and in the endeavour to secure him he attempted to shoot the man who spoke to him, but there being two of them together, the other, in self defence, fired and shot him. The fate of this fellow, who has long been a notorious offender, will have its effect. A coroner's inquest was ordered on the body, and every step taken which on such occasions is required by law.

February 11

Arrival of Marquis Cornwallis from Cork. Master Michael Hogan.

March 16

Death of Scottish Martyr Joseph Gerrald

March 19

Death of Scottish Martyr William Skirving. He was buried in the Old Sydney Burial Ground. The Trial of William Skirving


Exploration of the South Coast and Port Hacking by Bass and Flinders


Resignation of assistant surgeon Leeds. D'Arcy Wentworth appointed in his place.

Governor Hunter to the Duke of Portland
Sydney 30 April 1796
Mr. Leeds who came out in his Majesty's ship Supply as an assistant surgeon to the settlement, having written to me that his health is so impaired as to render him incapable of duty, and that he is of opinion if he continued longer in this country his life will be endangered, I have therefore permitted his return, and have appointed Mr. D'Arcy Wentworth who has officiated as an assistant in the hospital at Norfolk Island since the year 1790, to succeed, thinking his claim a very fair one
. (Historical Records of Australia, vol. 1., p. 560) David Collins reported that the assistant surgeon of the Supply had died in January 1796. - An Account of the English Colony in NSW

April 30

Arrival of ship Indispensable with 131 female prisoners and provisions for nine months after their arrival


Merino sheep introduced into Australia by John Macarthur - Two ships, the 'Supply'and the 'Reliance', were sent from Sydney to the Cape of Good Hope in 1796 to obtain supplies for the settlement. At Macarthur's request the two Captains Waterhouse and Kent procured for him pure Merino sheep and returned with them to New South Wales.

May 11

Arrival of the store-ship Britannia from Bengal with 957 tierces of salt provisions and rice. Chartered by Capt. William Paterson of NSW Corps


Unsuccessful attempt to cross the Blue Mountains by George Bass..... A Description of the hardship endured by George Bass and his party ....

Extract from the Caledonian Mercury (England)
7 September 1801
Botany Bay

'Notwithstanding however the encrease and flourishing state of the settlement itself, little knowledge has yet been had either of the country, or of the natives, no one having travelled inland to a greater distance than 30 miles, indeed so great are the difficulties and impediments which present themselves in penetrating the country, that it must be the work of time, before a communication with the interior can be accomplished; and when effected, must be done by government, it being out of the power of any set of individuals to set about it. The ingenious Doctor Bass, accompanied with two or three friends, and some guides, has more than once attempted it, but after an almost fruitless ramble of extreme hardship and danger for near six weeks, found himself compelled to return without attaining any desirable or useful end. The principal difficulty is the stupendous and almost inaccessible mountains that surround the settlement on every side and when with extreme labour you have ascended one ridge another presents itself at a few miles distance, far more difficult apparently in ascent. These mountains are divided by valleys of most delightful aspect, abounding with good pasturages, and in which the kangaroo is frequently found grazing in plentiful numbers, but so shy is this animal at the approach of man, that he bounds into the thickets, and the traveller has no chance of shooting one of them for subsistence, nor indeed has he any hopes of gaining food, but by killing a rat which is found in great plenty and which Dr. Bass and his companions were often obliged to regale on in the course of their journey. There are other impediments nearly as insurmountable as the mountains, the jungle with which they are covered, and the ravines into which you are in danger every moment of falling headlong, namely the number of snakes every where to be met with, whose bite is so venomous as to prove mortal in every instance where medical aid cannot be immediately had. The natives frequently lose their lives and the settlement has experienced a considerable loss in their cattle, while grazing in the cow pasture, from being bit by this reptile.'


Coal found in a bay near Port Stephens

The people of a fishing boat returned from a bay near Port Stephens and brought with them several large pieces of coal, which the said they found at some little distance from the beach, lying in considerable quantity on the surgace of the ground. These people having conducted themselves improperly while on shore, two of them were severely wounded by the natives, one of whom died soon after he reached the hospital..... An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales From Its First Settlement in January 1788, to August 1801 - David Collins


William Balmain Principal Colonial surgeon


Departure from the colony on the Britannia of Captain David Collins, Captain William Paterson, Lieut. Abbott and Lieut. Clephan.


Governor Hunter to the Duke of Portland...... there was 'being erected upon the high ground over Sydney, a strong substantial and well-built windmill with a stone tower, which will last for two hundred years and are preparing materials for another such at Parramatta' (HRA, Vol. 1., p. 675)


Printing press first used by convict George Hughes.