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Tasmania documents
Order-in-Council separating Van Diemen's Land from New South Wales 14 June 1825 (UK)
'Wanted' poster for unfound documents.
This document established Van Diemen's Land as a separate Colony independent of New South Wales as provided for in the New South Wales Act 1823, and also authorised the establishment of a separate Legislative Council for Van Diemen's Land.

In November 1824 colonists in Van Diemen's Land agitating for separation from New South Wales 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 who was in London after he was replaced in office by Lieutenant-Colonel George Arthur.

The petitioners – His Majesty's 'true and liege Subjects' – prayed that the King would exercise the power vested in him by Section 44 of the New South Wales Act of 1823 and grant their independence from New South Wales. This would be timely, they suggested with some self-congratulation, because:

the increased tide of Emigration, so wisely directed to its Shores by your Majesty's Ministers, and bringing along with it so considerable an influx of Capital, has infused an active spirit of agricultural and pastoral improvement, has enlarged the facilities of Trade, and stimulated commercial enterprise, and must necessarily tend to the rapid development of the great natural resources of the Country.
Lieutenant-Governor Arthur was not against full administrative independence from New South Wales, but his vision of the Colony's near and mid-term future was as 'a vast panopticon', and gaol-in-chief to the Empire. He did not share the hope of the petitioners that the Colony would soon advance beyond the stage of being 'a mere penal settlement'.

The plea, but not the commercial hopes of many of the petitioners, coincided with Imperial plans for the Colony and under this Order-in-Council, Chief Justice Pedder was accorded the same 'power, authority and jurisdiction' in Van Diemen's Land as Chief Justice Forbes possessed in relation to New South Wales.

The Colony was also granted its first legislature, to comprise between five and seven Members to be appointed by Royal Warrant. The powers of the Legislative Council of Van Diemen's Land were the same as those of the New South Wales Legislative Council under the 1823 Act.


Giblin, WR, The Early History of Tasmania, 1804–1828, vol. 2, Melbourne University Press and Oxford Universiy Press, Melbourne, 1939.

Historical Records of Australia, Series III, Volume 4.

Robson, Lloyd, A History of Tasmania, vol. 1, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1939.

Research trail
Order- in-Council for carrying into effect the provisions of an Act passed in the 3rd year of His Majesty's Reign by erecting the Island of Van Diemen's Land into a separate Colony 14 June 1825.

Research at the Archives Office of Tasmania located Despatch No. 17 of 15 July 1825, which brought news of the separation of Van Diemen's Land from New South Wales, but revealed that the enclosure, the Order-in-Council of 14 June, was missing. The search then extended, without success, to State Records New South Wales and the Mitchell Library Manuscripts Collection of the State Library of New South Wales. A document located in the Public Record Office in London (PC 1/4287), the last in a large bundle of papers, proved to be only a draft of the Order-in-Council, which had been retained in a series of miscellaneous documents of the Privy Council. This document, the researcher noted, was 'on very dirty paper', probably due to its having been stored for so long at the bottom of the bundle.

Among records sent to the Archives Office of Tasmania from the Mitchell Library in 1957 was a volume of Colonial Secretary's Correspondence entered in the index, enticingly, as 'VDL Independence [file] 6168'. Disappointment awaited as at some unknown time, file 6168 had been crudely cut from the bound volume of correspondence.

This left some intriguing questions – was the missing Order-in-Council document removed? If so, when and why was it cut out of the volume – and most importantly, where is it now?

The transcript of this document was taken from the copy printed in Historical Records of Australia, Series I Volume 12.