The quantity of Indian corn stolen and destroyed this season was not ascertained, but was supposed to have been at least one sixth of what was raised. The people employed in bringing it in daily reported that they found immense piles of the husks and stalks concealed in the midst of what was standing, having been there shelled and taken off at different times. This was a very serious loss, and became an object of immediate consideration in such a scarcity as the colony then experienced; most anxiously it expected supplies from England, which did not arrive, though the time had elapsed in which they should have appeared had their departure taken place at the period mentioned by the secretary of state (the autumn of last year). His excellency therefore thought it prudent still farther to abridge the ration of flour which was then issued; and on the 9th of the month directed the commissary to serve weekly, until further orders, one pound and an half of flour with four pounds of maize to each man; and one pound and an half of flour with three pounds of maize to each woman, and to every child ten years of age; but made no alteration in the ration of salt provisions.
This ration was to take place on Saturday the 12th; and as maize or Indian corn was now necessarily become the principal part of each person’s subsistence, hand-mills and querns were set to work to grind it coarse for every person both at Sydney and at Parramatta; and at this latter place, wooden mortars, with a lever and a pestle, were also used to break the corn, and these pounded it much finer than it could be ground by the hand-mills; but it was effected with great labour.
On comparing this ration with that issued in the month of April 1790, it will appear that the allowance then received from the public store was in most respects better than that now ordered. We then received, in addition to two pounds and a half of flour, two pounds of rice, which taken together yielded more nutritive substance than the four pounds of maize and one pound and a half of flour; for the maize when perfectly ground, sifted, and divested of the unwholesome and unprofitable part, the husk, would not give more than three pounds of good meal; and the rice was used by the convicts in a much greater variety of modes than it was possible to prepare the maize in.
As at this period the flour in store was reduced to a very inconsiderable quantity, twenty-four days at the new ration (one pound and a half per week), and the salt provisions at the present ration not affording a supply for a longer time than three months, it became a melancholy, although natural reflection, that had not such numbers died, both in the passage and since the landing of those who survived the voyage, we should not at this moment have had any thing to receive from the public stores; thus strangely did we derive a benefit from the miseries of our fellow creatures!