THE COMMISSION OF DAVID COLLINS


On 7 February 1803 Lord Hobart wrote to David Collins to advise him that the King had commissioned him to be Lieutenant-Governor of the new settlement intended to be formed in "Bass's Streights".

Lord Hobart also included Instructions to guide Collins in discharging the important trust with which he was vested. The Admiralty would provide him with the use of "HMS Calcutta" for transporting his civil establishment staff; 300 male convicts; about forty wives and children of convicts; and a proportion of such provisions, tools and necessary implements as may be required for the new settlement. The Transport Board would provide him with the use of the "Ocean" to assist in the conveyance of such additional persons and stores as were required. Collins was authorised to obtain any further supplies he thought necessary at any ports en route.

During the voyage the convicts were to be classed according to their several trades and former employments in order to be kept in some form of occupation. A quantity of woollen cloth, leather, linen, etc., together with such articles required for working them would be placed on board to promote some degree of industry amongst the convicts. Superintendents would reward these workers with small amounts of wine, spirits, tea and sugar.

Port Phillip had been chosen as the site of the first establishment. A secondary settlement was to be made on King's Island. Collins was told that he was not positively restricted from choosing another part of the coast or any of the other islands if he had well-grounded reasons for believing that they were more advantageously situated. He must however gain the concurrence of the Governor of New South Wales before moving to any other site.

Upon landing he was to secure the site from any attacks by natives and ensure that the public stores and provisions were kept safe. He was to attempt to make contact with the natives and conciliate their goodwill while preventing any acts of violence being made against them.

He was to keep records of all supplies issued and send regular lists back to England so that the propriety or expediency of granting further supplies could be judged. When supplying clothing to the convicts it had to be clearly explained to each individual at the time of issue that it was to be their clothing for one year. The produce of convict labour was to be considered as a public stock for the benefit of the convicts and their families, or the civil and military establishments, as required.

He was to try to procure such kinds of animal food as the place could supply, and cure whatever surplus of fish that may be caught, and to serve it out in rations. Cattle, sheep, swine and poultry were to be kept for propagation and not slaughtered unless under very particular circumstances.

Copies of the Instructions in force in New South Wales regarding the granting of lands to non-commissioned officers and privates of the marine forces, to settlers and to emancipated convicts, and in regard to the allowance of labour of convicts were supplied to Collins. He was also provided with copies of the Orders established by the Governor for the regulation of the police of the settlement and for the establishment of port duties.

He was asked to prevent all clandestine communication with the possessions of the East India Company, as well as all the coasts of China and the islands situated in that part of the world to which any intercourse had been established by any European nation. He was especially asked to prevent the clandestine introduction of spirits into the settlement and to seize and destroy any found. If he found it necessary to grant licenses for retailing spirituous liquors he was to confine such licenses to as few persons as possible.

It was expressly commanded that he not allow craft of any sort to be built for the use of private individuals without a written licence from the Governor of New South Wales, and he was to prevent the persons on board of any vessel which may arrive at the settlement from any of the parts before-mentioned from having any communication with any of the inhabitants of his settlement without special permission.

It was regarded as highly necessary that a yearly return of all marriages, births, and deaths within the settlement should be made. Should any civil officer die or be suspended he was authorised to appoint a replacement until His Majesty's pleasure was known. Should Collins die or absent himself from the Government the officer commanding the detachment of Royal Marines immediately under him was to take over until the arrival of a replacement appointed by the Governor of New South Wales.

Finally, he was to ensure a due observance of religion and good order among all the inhabitants of the settlement and to take such steps for the celebration of public worship as circumstances permitted, and in particular the due and proper observance of the Lord's Day.

(See "Historical Records of Australia" Series I, Volume IV (Sydney, 1915) for the full text of Lord Hobart's letter.)

Contributed by Alexander Romanov-Hughes ( PPPG Member No. 52 )


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