Historical Records of New Zealand
The Duke of Portland to Governor Hunter
The Duke of Portland to Governor Hunter.
I have received and laid before the King the letters from Lieut.-Governor Grose, mentioned in the margin,* and two letters from Lieut.-Governor King, of the 19th March, 1794, together with their respective enclosures.
The particular instructions which you received previous to your departure from hence, for the regulation of your conduct in every particular, render it unnecessary for me to be so minute in answering the letters now before me as would otherwise have been requisite.
* April 5th (not available, but quaere whether it is not the despatch dated April 29th, 1794); July 5th; August 20th; August 30th; August 31st.
† The return referred to was evidently that enclosed with Grose’s despatch of 5th July, 1794.
* The Shah Hormuzear did not return. Her owner (Mr. Bampton) despatched in her stead the Endeavour, an 800-ton vessel, from Bengal, with a cargo of provisions and one hundred and thirty-two head of cattle, in performance of his contract with Lieutenant-Governor Grose (see Collins, vol. i, p. 417). The Endeavour arrived at Port Jackson on 31st May, 1795. She was not identical with Captain Cook’s vessel of the same name.
† Lieutenant-Governor Grose’s reasons for deferring the execution of the directions referred to will be found in his despatch to Mr. Secretary Dundas of the 29th April, 1794. Hunter did not immediately disturb the system which had been continued by Grose. When the former arrived in the colony, the whole of the available labour was employed in agricultural work, particularly in preparing for the wheat harvest, and he naturally felt a disinclination—at such a time—to bring about so sweeping a change. Regulations were promulgated, however, in regard to assigned servants in the following cases: The settlers who arrived in the Surprize (Messrs. Boston, Pearce, and Ellis) were allowed five convicts; superintendents, constables, and storekeepers, four; free settlers, two; settlers who had been prisoners, one; and sergeants of the New South Wales Corps, one. Recognising, however, that it was impossible the Government could continue to feed and clothe the cultivators of the soil, and then purchase the produce of their labour, Hunter announced that, after the harvest had been garnered, the number of convicts allowed to the military officers, and victualled from the public store, would be greatly reduced.—Collins, vol. i, p. 431.
As the conduct of Lieut.-Governor King, in purchasing, as stated in Lieutenant-Governor Grose’s letters of the 30th of August last, eleven thousand four hundred and seventy-six bushels of Indian corn, appears to have arisen from good motives, you will, thro’ him, make the best terms you can with the owners. It is certainly proper and necessary to purchase from individuals what is wanted for the public stores, yet it is equally so that the purchase should be at the market price, and it cannot be expected what was given when the commodity was scarce should continue to be given when it becomes more abundant; and this circumstance makes me conceive that Governor Phillip could never have meant to fix a standing price for what must vary and fluctuate every year.
I have maturely considered the statement made by Lieutenant-Governor King of the transactions in Norfolk Island, referred to in Lieut.-Governor Grose’s letter of the 30th August, and I am far from imputing to Lieut.-Governor King any degree of blame which calls for serious reprehension. What I most object to is, his quitting his government and departing with the New Zealanders in the Britannia, without previous communication with Lieut.-Governor Grose.*
* See Lieutenant-Governor King’s despatches of 19th November, 1793, and 19th March, 1794; and Lieutenant-Governor Grose’s despatch of the 25th February, 1794.
I have thought it necessary to express my sentiments more fully on this subject, because I am inclined to think that the General Orders of Lieut.-Govr. Grose, dated 25th February, 1794, transmitted to Lieut.-Governor King, must have been hastily conceived on the pressure of the moment, and without due attention to the principle I have above mentioned, and which in the distribution of justice should never be lost sight of.
I am of opinion it would be better, whenever such disputes arise, which I trust will be very rarely, that the complaint in the first instance should always be guided by and follow the nature and description of the person.
Thus, if a convict, or any civil person, is complained of, the complaint should be to the Governor, or the nearest magistrate; if a military person, to the Commander-in-Chief, or nearest officer, as the case may require.
You will receive this by the Marquis Cornwallis,* transport, which takes from Ireland one hundred and sixty male and forty female convicts,† with nine months’ provisions for them after their arrival, and the articles mentioned in the enclosed list, for the use of the settlement.
You will likewise receive by this conveyance his Majesty’s commission for establishhing a Court of Criminal Jurisdiction in Norfolk Island;‡ and Mr. Hibbins, the Judge-Advocate for Norfolk Island, if not already sailed, is ordered to take his departure in the Marquis Cornwallis.
Another transport is expected to sail from hence in the course of the month of July, in which it is proposed to send the supplies specified in the within list.§
An additional quantity of common stationary will be sent, either in the Marquis Cornwallis or the transport which is to follow, for the use of the Commissary, Mr. Palmer, in keeping his accounts in the manner in which he has been directed, which must be strictly adhered to.
I am, &c.,
* She arrived at Sydney on 11th February, 1796.—Collins, vol. i, p. 455.
† According to Collins (vol. i, p. 455), the Marquis of Cornwallis had on board 163 male and 70 female convicts.
‡ A copy of this Act was enclosed, with Hunter’s instructions, in Dundas’s despatch of 1st July, 1794.
§ The list is not available.