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1823 Charter of Justice
Charter of Justice 13 October 1823 (UK). Image Museum of Australian Democracy

With the reading of the Royal Charter of Justice in Hobart on 7th May, 1824 the next step was for Governor George Arthur to select the men who would make up the first Legislative Council or Crown Council of Van Diemen’s Land.

The first group were John Lewes Pedder, Chief Justice; William Hamilton, Colonial Secretary; Adolarius Humphrey; Edward Curr; Edward Abbott. They had their first meeting on 25 August 1824 and the first thing on the agenda was the hot topic of separation from NSW.

The separation of VDL from NSW was prompted by the loud and vigorous agitation of a group of colonists who felt they weren’t being heard by Governor Arthur, so they sent a petition to the King.

The hundred petitioners described themselves as ‘landholders, merchants and other free inhabitants’ of Van Diemen’s Land. They forwarded the petition to Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonies, through Colonel William Sorell, the former Lieutenant-Governor of VDL who was in London after he was replaced in office by Lieutenant-Colonel George Arthur.

The petitioners pleaded the case of the increasing amount of emigrants being directed from England to VDL who would want to have more direct control of their capital that they brought with them. They also pointed out the great developments in agriculture and pastural holdings of VDL that needed more workers to develop further, and the promise of trade and commerce with Britain that could only happen if VDL was free from the chains of NSW.

While Governor Arthur was keen on full administrative independence from NSW, his vision for the colony of VDL was one of a vast prison colony, not of a free settlement, more of a ‘gaol-in-chief to the Empire’. He didn’t think the colony could develop beyond being a penal settlement.

Imperial plans for the Colony fell somewhere between the two.

The Colony was granted its first legislature, to comprise between five and seven members to be appointed by the Governor. The powers of the Legislative Council of VDL were the same as those of the NSW Legislative Council.

14 July, 1825, VDL separated from NSW but of course, things are never that quick and easy. It took a lengthy process of formalities, declarations and proclamations. Here is a timeline to make it easy on you:

24 Nov 1825 Governor Darling (NSW Governor) arrives in Hobart
3 Dec 1825     Darling proclaims VDL as a separate colony from NSW
17 Dec 1825 Governor Arthur publishes proclamation
12 Apr 1826   Legislative Council meets formally
26 Apr 1826   Legislative Council swears in members
21 Jun 1826    Legislative Council meets for first proper session.

1824 – 1851 All members of the Legislative Council were appointed by the Governor

1851 to 1856 two thirds of the Members were elected and one third appointed

From December 1856 all Members of the Legislative Council and House of Assembly were elected.

Part 4.

Categories: Politics