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Historical Records of New Zealand
Edited by Robert McNab in 2 volumes (1908)


The object sought to be attained by the publication of the “Historical Records” of New Zealand can best be understood by a perusal of the preface to the “Historical Records” of New South Wales, printed in this volume. The reason why the method is adopted of explaining one set of Records by quoting the preface to another is that this volume comprises almost exclusively those documents among the “Historical Records” of New South Wales which concern the Islands of New Zealand. Those belonging to the years prior to 1811 have been extracted from the printed, those after that date from the manuscript “Historical Records,” lying in Sydney, which latter, by the kindness of the New South Wales Government, were put at the disposal of this country. The New South Wales sources are therefore our sources, their preface our preface.

So clearly are the objects to be gained by the publication of the material and the sources from which it has been procured stated in the preface to the "Historical Records” of New South Wales, that the Editor sees no necessity to deal at any length with the task of justifying or explaining the publication of this volume. The documents, it may however be mentioned, are arranged in chronological order, and it is intended to continue the issue of fresh volumes from time to time as the material obtained justifies that course. Already a very large amount of additional material, sufficient to warrant the belief that another two years should see a second volume emerge from the printer’s hands, is ready for the compositor.

The plan of issuing volumes without waiting until the whole of the material is to hand is explained by the fact that the work was undertaken by the Editor to enable the incidents in our country’s early history to be put at the disposal of the people of the Dominion as soon as possible. To wait until all was collected would be to indefinitely postpone the publication of what was available, without the certainty of finality ever being reached. Interim publications will effect the object the Editor has in view.

Wellington, New Zealand,
21st April, 1908.


The “Historical Records” of New South Wales are published with the object of affording the fullest information obtainable concerning the foundation, progress, and government of the mother colony of Australia. It was with a similar purpose that the publication was commenced, more than two years ago, of the “History of New South Wales, from the Records.” All the material that the Government could command was placed at the disposal of the writer, and in the volume issued from the Government Printing Office in June. 1889, this reservoir of information was largely drawn upon. But when Vol. II. of the History was in preparation it was considered desirable to make a change in the plan. It was determined that while the publication of the History should go on, the records themselves, with the exception of those that are trivial or formal, should be printed in full, in separate volumes, so that the public might have, on the one hand, a historical work founded on official documents, and on the other, the material upon which the narrative is based.

The adoption of this course serves a double purpose. In the first place, it enhances the value of the History, for it enables the reader to turn at any point from the narrative of the writer to the fuller information which the reports and despatches supply. The advantage gained by this treatment of the official papers is obvious. No matter how faithfully a writer of history may perform his task, he cannot cover all the ground; no matter how acutely he may criticize the actors who take part in the scenes he describes, he cannot exhibit them in so clear a light as they are shown in their own writings. Thus the publication of the Records may be regarded as desirable from the historical point of view.

In the second place, the printing of the Records gives immediate and lasting public value to State papers which would otherwise be of service to the few—only those, in fact, who have leisure to search the bulky manuscripts which have been collected by the Government. In the absence of printed records, the inquirer who endeavours to learn in what manner New South Wales was founded—how the settlement was governed in the early days—by what steps it grew—how difficulties were encountered and overcome—what mistakes were made, and how they were corrected— by whom injustice was perpetrated, and in what way retribution fell upon the oppressor—can command no better sources of information than tradition, and the accounts of writers who had to make history from insufficient material. He is in the position that a jury would occupy if it were required to give a verdict upon hearsay evidence. The publication of the Records will change all that. With the printed Records in the public libraries and on the book-shelves of all who care to purchase them, the student of history will have the best possible material at his disposal. He will be able to read for himself, and draw his own conclusions from direct testimony.

It is not entirely a new departure that has been taken. The importance of preserving and reproducing national records is recognised in most civilised countries, and especially so in Great Britain. In earlier times, when Ministers of the Crown treated official despatches as their private property, and on quitting office carried to their own houses manuscripts which belonged to the nation, little care was taken of the records, and such a thing as giving information to the public concerning them does not appear to have had any place in the minds of those in authority. This indifference no longer exists. All public documents are carefully preserved; inventories of them are taken, and they are accurately described in printed calendars. With a few exceptions, the State papers are gathered together in one place, the Public Record Office, London, and are kept in the custody of the Master of the Rolls, who by the Public Records Act (1 and 2 Viet., c. 94) is constituted Keeper of the Archives. These stores of information are not simply hoarded up—they are treated in such a way as to be of use to the people, and to bring within easy reach of the historian the documentary evidence that he requires. Large volumes, entitled “Calendars of State Papers,” consisting of condensations of the documents in the Public Record Office and elsewhere from the days of Henry VIII. to the eighteenth century, are in course of publication, while some of the earlier records are printed in full.

Under the direction of the Master of the Rolls, and by the authority of Her Majesty’s Treasury, the publication was commenced thirty-four years ago of “The Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages.” The first volume (published December, 1857) contained an official statement, which has been repeated in subsequent volumes, to the effect that on the 26th January of that year the Master of the Rolls submitted to the Treasury a proposal for the publication of materials for the history of Great Britain, from the invasion of the Romans to the reign of Henry VIII. The Lords of the Treasury adopted the suggestion, and the work, conducted by a staff of editors, has gone on without interruption to the present time. Up to 1891 over 200 volumes had been published. The care and elaboration with which the work is done may be seen from the copies of the books in the Free Public Library. Sydnev.

More than half a century before the publication of the “Chronicles and Memorials” was commenced, that is to sav in the year 1800, a Select Committee of the House of Commons had recommended that the public records should be printed. This recommendation is referred to by the Honourable Board of Commissioners on the Public Records in its report to the King-in-Council of the 7th February, 1837. The Commissioners express their approval of the proposition in the following words: “In this opinion [the opinion of the Select Committee that the Records should be printed] we have entirely coincided. We regard the press as at once the only perfectly secure preservative of the information which the National Archives contain, and the only means by which that information can be diffused beyond a very narrow circle of inquiress.” The publication of the “Chronicles and Memorials” is the outcome of these recommendations.

In Canada the Records are scrupulously kept, and their contents disclosed for the information of the public. In 1872 the Dominion Government appointed an Archivist, and founded an Archives Office at Ottawa, where all the public records, with the exception of those retained by the provincial authorities, are stored. The papers consist partly of original documents, and partly of copies of old despatches and other manuscripts transcribed by a staff of writers from originals discovered by the Archivist in the London Record Office and Departments of State, and in the archives of Paris and other European cities. From time to time reports are issued in which the records are described, and, when considered necessary, printed in full. In this manner the public is placed in possession of information of the highest interest and importance relating to the early history of Canada which had never before seen the light.

In New South Wales, owing to the shorter period of time, and the smaller quantity of material to be dealt with, it is possible to do what would be impracticable under other circumstances, that is to say, to publish in full the Records of the colony from its foundation. It has also been decided to publish all available correspondence concerning Captain Cook and his connection with Australian discovery. The Cook Papers form Part I. of Vol. I. Part II. of Vol. I. contains the records relating to the establishment of the colony and its progress under Governor Phillip.

When the settlement at Port Jackson was established the chief authority was vested in the Governor, who not only governed the colony, but administered its affairs. The civil business was conducted nominally by a staff, but much of the work fell upon the Governor, who was troubled with matters of a kind which would be settled in the present day by an ordinary clerk. He was also at the head of the naval and military forces, and was the principal, it may almost be said the only, channel of communication between the Colonial Government and the English authorities. The reasons which led the English Government to plant a convict settlement in New South Wales are only briefly indicated in the scanty papers discovered in the State Departments; but when the colony had been established its affairs formed the subject of periodical letters from the Governors, who wrote fully about the concerns of the settlement, receiving in reply despatches for their guidance and instruction. Most of this correspondence has been preserved in the English Departments of State, either in the original or in official copies. Its value is inestimable. The despatches arc full of information. The Governors were required by their instructions to keep the Home authorities well informed about matters great and small, and in the despatches sent to London almost every transaction that took place is minutely described. More than this, copies of all the Proclamations and Orders issued by the Governor and the military commander were forwarded for the information of the English authorities. These documents are recorded with the other State papers.

The early history of New South Wales is founded mainly upon the despatches sent by the Governors to the authorities in England, and the despatches received by them in reply. The Records are comprised within measurable bounds, and, as they are the chief material out of which history must be made, it has been decided to print them as they stand.

This course has been adopted on the recommendation of a Board, consisting of the late Hon. Geoffrey Eagar, Under Secretary for Finance and Trade from 1872 to 1891; Alexander Oliver, M.A., Barrister-at-Law; Professor G. Arnold Wood, B.A., Challis Professor of History at the Sydney University; and R. C. Walker, Principal Librarian, Public Library. The Board having ascertained the nature of the documents at the disposal of the Government, came to the conclusion that the design with which the publication of the Official History was commenced could not be fully carried out unless the State papers and other official documents upon which the work was based were made as accessible to the public as the History itself. They decided, therefore, that the printing of the Records was not only desirable but necessary, and in the month of March, 1891, a recommendation to that effect was made to the then Colonial Treasurer, the Hon. William McMillan. The proposal received the cordial approval of the Minister, who gave the necessary authority to carry out the work on the lines recommended bv the Board. Arrangements were made accordingly for printing and publishing the despatches, reports, letters, and other papers which had been collected.

While the best use has been made of the material at command, the Records of the early days of the colony cannot be presented in an absolutely complete form. Every paper of conserptence that has been discovered, or may be discovered hereafter, will be published; but, unfortunately, manuscripts of great interest and importance, which are known to have existed, cannot now be found. The most valuable of the early Records are in despatches sent to England by the Governors, and the despatches received by the Governors from the authorities in London. At Government House, Sydney, there are a number of letter-books containing copies of the despatches sent to England, and the original despatches received from the Home authorities; but these Records, instead of going back to 1788, the year in which New 8outh Wales was founded, begin with 1800. Of the despatches received and sent before that date, during the Governorships of Phillip and Hunter, and the Lieutenant-Governorships of Grose and Paterson, there is no trace. What has become of them it is impossible to say. A hundred years ago State papers were not so carefully guarded as they are now; the English system was loose, and it would have been surprising if greater care had been taken in Sydney than in London. Some of the early Australian Governors may have taken their papers with them when they left office. On that supposition the disappearance of the despatches from 1788 to 1800 is readily explained; but even then the whole case is not met, for public Records of which the Governors were not the custodians are also missing.

There are circumstances, however, which discourage the view that Governors’ despatches in the early days were treated as the property of those to whom they were sent. It is certain that they were not so treated by Governor King, and there seems to be no reason why Phillip and Hunter, Grose and Paterson, should have followed a different practice. We have the means of knowing exactly the course pursued by Hunter’s immediate successor. The Hon. Philip Gidley King, has placed at the disposal of the Government the books and papers left by his grandfather, Governor King; but, while these manuscripts include copies of most, if not all, of the despatches received by King from the English Ministers and Under-Secretaries of State, no originals are to be found. The despatches have been copied into letter-books, some by King himself, some by his secretary; but, while many unofficial letters to King are among the papers, the originals of the Home despatches are wanting. The inference is plain. If King had at any time regarded the English despatches as his own property, he would not have gone to the trouble of copying them, and the originals would have been found among his papers. He was exceedingly careful about his correspondence, preserving communications of all kinds, whether trivial or important, but duplicating nothing. When an original document is met with there is no copy. And the manuscripts at Government House show that when King relinquished the government he left the originals of the English despatches in the office. If in doing so he acted in accordance with the recognised practice, the presumption is that his predecessors—Governors Phillip and Hunter, and Lieutenant-Governors Grose and Paterson—treated in the same way the despatches received by them.

What, then, has become of these manuscripts? Most probably they have been destroyed; but by whom or with what object can only be conjectured. That the missing despatches met with this fate is the more likely from the fact previously stated, that public records of corresponding dates, for which the Governors were not responsible, have also disappeared. A strongroom in the Colonial Secretary’s Office, Sydney, contains all the original records of New South Wales that can be found. These papers have been examined and scheduled, and it may be seen at a glance of what they consist. They begin with a General Order, dated 7th August, 1789, “ Instructions to the Night Watch.” Two other ordets of no particular importance follow, and these are all out of the many hundreds issued during Phillip’s Governorship that appear to have been preserved. There are no official papers whatever belonging to the administration of Lieut.-Governor Paterson — December, 1794, to September, 1795; and only one of the time in which Lieut.-Governor Grose ruled — December, 1792, to December, 1794. Hunter’s Governorship, which covered more than five years — 11th September, 1795, to 27th September, 1800 — is represented by one book containing copies of the orders made from September, 1795, to December, 1797, and five or six papers of minor importance. Papers belonging to the King period, 1800 to 1806, are more numerous; but the Records are scanty and intermittent until the term of Governor Macquarie is reached, January, 1810. There are no despatches to or from the Governors during any period. The only manuscripts of this class in Sydney are in the Secretary’s room at Government House.

The Records, so far as Sydney is concerned, are thus defective, in two respects. In the first place, the despatches from the foundation of the colony up to the beginning of 1800 are wanting; in the second place, the Orders, Proclamations, and other official papers showing how authority was exercised in the early days are found only in fragments—in fact, they can scarcely be said to exist.

But for the active search made in London by Mr. James Bonwick, F.R.G.S., the early Records of New South Wales would have been little better than a blank. The despatches sent to England by the Governors, as well as the despatches and letters transmitted to them, have been preserved, if not as completely as could have been wished, yet to a very large extent, in the Departments of State. These sources of information have been thrown open to the Government, and the transcriptions that have been made repair, so far as it can be repaired, the misfortune the colony has sustained in the loss of its early Records.

The first step to tap these valuable sources of information was taken in April, 1887, when the Colonial Secretary, Sir Henry Parkes, G.C.M.G., through the Agent-General, authorised Mr. Bonwick to make copies of certain despatches which he had discovered. In the following year, in view of the publication of the “History of New South Wales from the Records,” authority was given for the transcription of documents relating to the period during which Governor Phillip was at the head of affairs— i.e., 1788-1792. The information obtained in this way proved so interesting and valuable that Mr. Bonwick was instructed to continue his researches, and the work has since gone on without interruption. The purpose in view is to collect from every available source all the authentic information it is possible to obtain relating to the foundation of the colony and its government during the early part of its existence.

An awkward gap is thus filled up. The information, however, was not easily obtained. The manuscripts were not readily accessible; they were gathered from many Departments. The Governors in the early days were not only responsible to the Home Office, which had the colonies in its charge, but, as naval officers, they owed allegiance to the Admiralty. They had to correspond with the Home Secretary and the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and with the Under-Secretaries of those departments. Each department and sub-department kept two lettcr-books, one for the Minister and the other for the Under-Secretary, so that it was necessary to examine four different sources of information for the purpose of discovering what had passed between the Governors and the English authorities.

In dealing with the Records belonging to a still earlier period —that in which the establishment of a settlement in New South Wales was discussed—the ground to be covered was wider still, though not so productive. In making preparations for the despatch of the first fleet many departments and sub-departments were engaged—the Home Office, which had general direction of the business; the Admiralty, which undertook the equipment and officering of the ships, and the appointment of the force of marines which guarded the transports and formed the garrison at Port Jackson; the Treasury, which made the financial arrangements; the Transport Office, which had to do with the convict-ships; and the Victualling Department, which provisioned the fleet. When the marines were replaced by the special corps raised by Major Grose, known afterwards as the New South Wales Corps, another Department of State, that of War, was brought into operation; and, accordingly, correspondence between that department and the Home Office, and between the officials at the War Office and the officers of the corps, takes its place amongst the records. Three of the transports which constituted, with the warship “Sirius” and its tender the “Supply,” the vessels forming the first fleet, were under charter to the East India Company to take cargoes of tea from China to London after landing convicts and stores at Port Jackson; and at a subsequent stage, the company, owing to the obstacles it threw in the way of Australian trade with the East, figured largely in the official correspondence relating to New South Wales. The records of the India Office are therefore another source of information.

The transcripts which have been despatched to Sydney are thus gathered from a wide field, embracing as it does the Public Record Office, the British Museum, the Home Office, the Colonial Office, the War Office, the Privy Council Office, the Admiralty, the India Office, and Somerset House. The documents had to be searched for, and the work was not without difficulty, owing to the imperfect and unsystematic way in which official records were kept in the early days. Some documents—the earlier Orders and Proclamations, for example—cannot be found at all; others, which were believed to be missing, such as the commissions of the early Governors, have been discovered in the Home Office, after a patient search, in which valuable assistance was given by the officers of the Department. A number of the despatches copied by the transcribers in London escaped notice in the first instance because they had been placed amongst papers relating to the American colonies.

While the principal storehouse of facts concerning the early days of the colony is the Public Record Office and the Departments of State in London, information has been obtained from other sources. Six years ago the Agent-General, Sir Saul Samuel, acting under instructions from the Government at Sydney, purchased from Lord Brabourne a valuable collection of papers relating to the settlement and early history of New South Wales. They were once known as “The Brabourne Papers”; they are now known as “The Banks Papers.” The grandfather of the present Lord Brabourne was related to Sir Joseph Banks, and in that way the papers came into the possession of the Brabourne family. Sir Joseph Banks, as pointed out in Vol. I. of the Official History, took an active part in the consultations and negotiations which led to the settlement of New South Wales; and there can be no doubt that his representations, founded upon what he saw of the country during his visit to Botany Bay with Captain Cook in the Endeavour, did a great deal towards bringing about the settlement of New South Wales. After the colony had been established he watched its fortunes with a parental eye, and the deep interest which he took in its welfare is shown by the correspondence that has come, through Lord Brabourne, into the possession of the Government of New South Wales. These manuscripts are apparently only a part of the papers that Sir Joseph kept with regard to this colony. The “Banks Papers” were discovered by accident in Sir Joseph Banks’s old house in Soho Square, but these manuscripts are only a portion of the correspondence which Sir Joseph had with English Ministers, and with Australian Governors, settlers, and explorers. Many of his manuscripts relating to Australian affairs have been lost or destroyed. The papers begin with four letters from Captain Cook (originals), and go up to 1814, six years before Sir Joseph’s death. The absence of letters from or to Phillip, with whom Sir Joseph Banks corresponded, the fact that there are no manuscripts of later date than 1814, and other considerations, indicate that the collection, precious as it is, is only the remnant of a large store of papers relating to the foundation and early history of New South Wales.

The manuscripts of Governor King, which have been lent to the Government by the Hon. Philip Gidley King, M.L.C., are extensive and important. They consist of a Journal, in two volumes, kept partly on board the “Sirius” on the voyage from England to Botany Bay with the first fleet of transports, and partly at Norfolk Island, where King acted as Commandant and Superintendent from March, 1788, to March, 1790, under a Commission issued by Phillip as Governor of New South Wales and its Dependencies; a letter-book, containing copies of despatches received and sent both during King’s term as Commandant and during his subsequent command as Lieutenant-Governor, under commission from the Crown, from November, 1791, to October, 1796; four letter-books, kept during his term as Governor of New South Wales, from September, 1800, to August, 1806; and original letters and despatches, extending from 1799 to 1811. It should be pointed out, with regard to the despatches recorded in the letter-books, that King during his first term at Norfolk Island corresponded with Governor Phillip, from whom he derived his authority, while during his Lieutenant-Governorship at Norfolk Island and his Governorship at Sydney he was in direct communication with the Home Office and other Departments of State in England. While acting as Lieutenant-Governor of Norfolk Island, from November, 1791, to October, 1796, King wrote a second Journal, a copy of which is amongst the transcripts sent from England to the Government in Sydney.

Discoveries from time to time of manuscripts which were believed to have been lost, or the existence of which was unknown, may interfere to some extent with the consecutive printing of the Records; but it has been considered better to begin publishing at once than wait an indefinite time to make sure that all possible sources of information have been exhausted. The plan of the work contemplates the publication of the Records in chronological order, and the rule will not be departed from except m cases where despatches of a given date contain enclosures of earlier dates. Under such circumstances, to place the manuscripts in strict chronological order would cause confusion, instead of helping the reader. The plan of arranging matter according to subjects has its advantages, but it is considered that what might be gained in this way would be outweighed by the disadvantages of a system under which the reader would be obliged to look through half a dozen volumes to find one piece of information relating to a particular day in a particular year. It is believed that by printing the Records in chronological order, and giving with each volume a comprehensive index, the Records will be of greater value for purposes of reference than if they were dealt with under separate heads.

As the papers given in these volumes form the basis of the Official History which is published concurrently, they are presented without comment, and without any attempt to explain the story they tell. The proper place for description, analysis, and comment is the history itself. The Records are given here as they were found, and they speak for themselves. Where it has been considered necessary to explain the relation of papers to each other, or to give information concerning persons and places, as an aid to the reader in studying the Records, the Editor has written the necessary notes, which are printed at the foot of the page, but no alteration of the text has been made in any case. Errors of composition and spelling are allowed to go without correction; in a word, the Records as printed are literal transcripts of the originals. This is the plan now generally adopted in the reproduction of manuscripts; indeed, no other course could be pursued without mutilating the originals, and depriving them of their historic value.

It will be noticed in examining the Records from 1783 to 1789 that duplicates are given of some of the documents printed in Vol. I. of the Official History. It was impossible to avoid this repetition. The Records stand by themselves, and they must be given intact. For this reason, the documents published in Vol. I. of the History have been reprinted; in future issues, however, repetitions will not occur. In the Historical Records will be found the full text of the papers; in the history they will be digested and explained. The writer of Vol. I. made such use of the manuscripts as the space at his disposal allowed; the broader plan now adopted gives the simple facts in one set of volumes and the historical narrative in another. In this way the full Records will appear in print, while the history will not be burdened by long extracts and quotations. It is believed that by the adoption of this course the convenience of the reader will be consulted and the object which the Government has in view carried into effect.

Government Printing Office,
Sydney, February, 1892.

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