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From Tasman To Marsden.

3. The Plumier, 1801

3. The Plumier, 1801.

The third of the pioneer timber traders was the Plumier, a Spanish vessel of 250 tons, captured on the coast of Peru. Condemned as prize of war in Sydney in 1799, she was purchased by the firm of Reid & Co., the central figure of which was a time-expired convict named Thomas Fyshe Palmer, to sail for a cargo of New Zealand timber and then proceed to the Cape of Good Hope.

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Palmer had been a Scotch Unitarian minister of advanced political views, who, in 1793, had committed the crime of interesting himself in the cause of universal suffrage, with the result that the Courts of Justice fell foul of him and he had to go to Botany Bay for seven years. Some of his devoted personal friends followed him into his weary exile, and, in 1800 when his term had been completed, joined with him in purchasing the Plumier and fitting her out, as has been already described. Wm. Reid was captain.

On 5th January the Plumier cleared for the Cape of Good Hope, and on 2nd March reached New Zealand. She put into the Firth of Thames to load her cargo, and when there was driven on a sandbank and had eight of her larboard timbers broken. No doubt the vessel herself was in a very bad condition, and, with the ill-luck which befel her, and the want of workmen and materials, abandonment seemed inevitable when the Royal Admiral hove in sight and tendered her assistance, with the result that the Plumier was able to continue her voyage on 20th August.

From the Thames the Plumier sailed for Tongatabu for supplies, but, unable to get anything there, she made for the Fiji Islands, where she had the misfortune to get on a reef as she was entering the harbour, losing part of her keel and getting her rudder unhung. Before she could leave, bulkheads, tightened with clay, were erected in the afterhold to isolate the fractured portion. In this condition she made for Macao, but, the ship proving leaky, and the crew being short of provisions, Captain Reid changed her destination and entered Guam Bay (then under Spanish rule) on 10th January 1802.

Instead of receiving supplies at this port the Plumier was seized as a prize, and all on board of her were detained as prisoners. Some got away by means of a Spanish vessel bound for Manila, which called in for a few hours, and, on 20th January 1803, relief came to the remainder. Palmer missed getting away with the first party, and, taking a boat in the vain endeavour to catch up on the vessel, contracted a severe cold which shortly afterwards carried him to his grave. Some of the survivors settled at Manila.

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Palmer's remains were finally taken to Boston, Mass., U.S.A., and a monument to his memory was erected in the Carlton Burial Ground, Edinburgh in 1844. It was in accordance with the eternal fitness of things that Palmer, made a convict for his advocacy of universal suffrage, should, before returning to his native country, visit New Zealand, afterwards the first Colony of the Empire to adopt the principles he advocated. To those who interest themselves in coincidences it may be pointed out that Palmer was transported for advocating universal suffrage in 1793, and in 1893, or 100 years later, the Bill giving effect to his principles received the Royal sanction in New Zealand, and the same year the first elections were held under it.