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Historical Records of New Zealand

The Duke of Portland to Governor Hunter

The Duke of Portland to Governor Hunter.

Whitehall, 10th June, 1795.


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.

It gives me great pleasure to find that the quantity of land already under cultivation produces more grain than is sufficient for the consumption of the settlement, and particularly so, as the naturally increasing proportion of that cultivation must be fully equal to the supply of the additional number of convicts, which from time to time may be expected to arrive from hence. The return, too, of the live stock is far from unpromising. The supply which (from what is stated in Lieutenant-Governor Grose’s letter of the 31st of August last) may be expected by the ship Shah Hormuzear, with the means of procuring further supplies, to be adopted under your instructions, will, I have no doubt, in a very short period place the settlement in such a

* 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.

page 200 condition as will, with respect to live stock as to grain, render it totally independent of this country.* I am, at the same time, sorry to observe that the amount of the public live stock and cultivated ground bears by no means that proportion to the private which might be expected from the nature of the case and the number of convicts employed, whose labour should be considered as the property of the public by whom they are supported; and herein I must observe that the directions contained in Mr. Dundas’s letter to Lieutenant-Governor Grose of the 30th of June, 1793, directing certain regulations to be adopted with regard to the number of convicts to be allowed to officers, as such, and the conditions under which any greater number should be allowed them, did not admit of any discretionary construction on the part of the Lieutenant-Governor, and consequently they have been improperly deferred. Besides, the reasons assigned by Lieutenant-Governor Grose for deferring them are insufficient and erroneous, since nothing can be more self-evident than that the public will be most benefited, either when the convicts, fed by the public, are employed on its account, or when employed for and on account of the individual, they are fed by that individual, and taken from the public stores. I must here observe that Lieutenant-Governor Grose states that Norfolk Island not producing herbage sufficient for the maintenance of any species of live stock, must always be

* 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.

page 201 dependent on the mother country or on New South Wales for salt provisions. Should this be the case, you will be particularly on your guard not to burthen that settlement with a greater number of convicts than can subsist themselves on the island, without a perpetual recourse to this country or to New South Wales.

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.*

With respect to the mutinous detachment that was sent from the island, I am truly sorry to observe that their conduct was such as to merit much severer treatment than it met with. The source of their disorderly conduct and of their disobedience clearly arose from their having been improperly permitted to mix and interfere with the other inhabitants, but particularly with the convicts, from whom, as their situation and their duties are perfectly separate and distinct, so should their conversation and connections. The best proof I can receive that both the one and the other are properly governed, will be that matters of dispute seldom arise between them, and for this plain reason, because they should neither of them ever be in the way of it. But whenever such disputes do arise, strict and impartial justice must decide between the parties, for whoever mis-

* 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.

page 202 conducts
himself must be considered as losing all title to preference or distinction from being of a different class or description.

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.