# 33988

GREAT BRITAIN. COLONIAL OFFICE.

Terms upon which land is granted to Settlers in New South Wales & Van Dieman’s [sic] Land.

$11,000.00 AUD

  • Ask a question

[Drop-head title]. London : Colonial Office, Downing-Street, April, 1827. Foolscap folio bifolium (340 mm); [3], [1 blank] pp; letterpress on wove paper with Britannia watermark and date 1825; edges untrimmed, neat old folds; a fine example.

The rare first edition of this highly significant Colonial Office document outlining the rules by which the acquisition of land in the Australian colonies by its free subjects are to be administered by the British Crown. While in an abstract sense its legality is, of course, entirely dependent on the acknowledgement of the concept of Terra nullius, in concrete terms its content forms the very foundations of the hierarchies of wealth and power to be found in Australian society right up to the present day.

The document opens with this explanatory statement:

‘For the information of Persons proceeding to New South Wales and Van Dieman’s [sic] Land, as Settlers, it has been deemed expedient to prepare the following summary of the Rules which His Majesty’s Government have thought fit to lay down for Regulating the Grants of and in those Colonies.’

This is followed by a series of 24 points in which are explained the terms under which free settlers may apply to the Crown to select and purchase any land in the colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land which has not already either been granted or ‘appropriated for public purposes’. Land that has not already been assigned a value will be assessed by a government surveyor before the application process may proceed. Under certain circumstances, grants of up to 2500 acres of land will be made to a ‘fresh Settler’ without the requirement to purchase. In such cases the grantees will be made to prove to the authorities their efforts towards ‘the Cultivation and Improvement of the Land’ after the first seven years of occupation; they will also be liable for a ‘quit rent’ of 5% of the land’s value, although this will not be levied until the end of the first seven years, and will later on become redeemable if certain conditions are met. (The onerous ‘quit rent’ system, a practice dating from the mediaeval period, was to all intents and purposes abandoned in colonial New South Wales after 1831). 

Ferguson 1140a – held in the Mitchell Library, William Edward Riley papers, 1810-1856 – the only print copy in Australian collections (a ms. copy is also held in the same collection).

Ferguson also records only an 1830 edition (F 1352), which is a 6-page lithograph printing with pagination that includes (on pages 3-5) a reprint of the text from the present April 1827 printing. The full title of the 1830 printing is Colonial Grants. Copy of the Conditions under which Lands are granted in the British North American Colonies, and in the Colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. Note that the 1830 printing has the 1827 misspelling Dieman’s corrected to Diemen’s in the title. An example of the 1830 printing is held in the SLNSW; it also appears likely to be the case that the State Library of Tasmania’s catalogue entry for its 1827 edition – describing it as a 6-page lithographic printing and with Diemen’s rather than Dieman’s in the title – actually refers to an example of the 1830 edition (F 1352), and not to the unpaginated 3-page edition of 1827 with the incorrect spelling Dieman’s in the title.

The April 1827 printing should be considered as the primary edition of this significant document. However, as early as October 1826 the Colonial Office had prepared a preliminary draft of the document which was intended for circulation in the form of a printed memorandum. It contained only 20 of the 24 sections ultimately included in the final version, but the wording of the title had already been settled upon (albeit with the correct spelling of Diemen’s!!). An example of this draft-state memorandum, sent as an enclosure in a letter dated 24 October 1826, is held in the collection of the University of Tasmania Library, and can be can be viewed online here: https://eprints.utas.edu.au/6416/3/2414_r23.pdf