One of the earliest poems composed in Australia, "Alas; poor Botany Bay" is a savage satire on the administration of governor John Hunter. The poem contains allegations of corruption against Hunter and some of his key office-holders: the acting judge-advocate Richard Atkins (1745-1820), the storekeeper Andrew Hamilton Hume (1762-1849), and the acting commissary James Williamson (1758-1826). The inclusion of Hume in this list makes it clear that the poem was written in 1798 in the brief period Hume was appointed as government storekeeper before he was in fact tried for 'malversation of public property' (ADB). "Alas; poor Botany Bay" was originally 'published' in the form of a 'pipe'; that is, a handwritten roll of paper that was clandestinely distributed around the colony to embarrass the government. In his younger years, William Charles Wentworth
also wrote 'pipes', and a copy of "Alas; poor Botany Bay" survives among his papers, making possible the suggestion that Wentworth's father D'Arcy
, a colonial surgeon, was the author of these verses. The poem pays no attention to convict experience and advances the interest of "the settlers" as those being oppressed by Hunter and his corrupt government. Thus the poem may have emanated from - and certainly would have appealed to - the military establishment of New South Wales, who were by far the largest landholding interest at the time, and frequently at odds with the civil government.