Notes of a Cruise in H.M.S. Fawn in the Western Pacific in 1862 by T.H. Hood. Ex. 149
An Outline of Story of Norfolk Island and Pitcairn’s Island, 1788-1857,
by C.H. Currey, 1958. Ex. 90
INSTRUCTIONS AND ADVICE ADDRESSED TO THE CHIEF MAGISTRATE OF
The objects of Her Majesty’s Government, in transferring the Pitcairn islanders to their present residence were, first, to put them in a position to maintain their increasing numbers by their own industry, and second, to enable them to keep up, so far as the change of circumstances may permit, the peculiar form of polity under which they have hitherto existed as a community.
It will therefore be the duty of the chief magistrate, while administering the affairs of the Colony, during the absence of the Governor, to keep these two objects steadily in view; to see that the labour of the islanders is properly applied to the cultivation of the ground, that a sufficient area is brought under cultivation to supply all the probable wants of the community, so that it may not be necessary to purchase flour or biscuit from the adjacent Colonies, and while doing this, to be careful not to sanction any deviation from the principles which, by maintaining a sort of family feeling among the whole of the community, have enabled them to live together in peace and harmony up to the present time.
The rules and regulations which have been submitted by me for the consideration of the community, and have now been issued under the authority vested in me by Her Majesty, have been framed in strict accordance with those under which your affairs have hitherto been administered. Some few rules have been abrogated, as having no relation to the state of things now existing, and one or two have been added to provide for circumstances contingent upon the position of Norfolk Island, in the immediate vicinity of the Colonies of Australia and New Zealand.
I allude specially to the rule which prohibits the introduction upon the island of spirituous or fermented liquors, except for purposes purely medicinal. The evils which are forced daily upon my notice as originating from the use, and consequent abuse of these stimulants, are too great not to make me most anxious to guarantee, if possible, the inhabitants of Norfolk Island from them; and as none among you have ever been accustomed to the use of these stimulants, it can be no possible hardship that you should be prevented by legal enactment from indulging a taste which experience shows does too often lead to crime and to sin.
It must, however, be obvious to every one, that the very altered position in which you are now placed, must eventually render obligatory many additions to these regulations. Nothing has been said as yet with relation to the alienation of land by the Crown, and its transference to individual proprietors. Nothing to regulate the admission upon the island of settlers who may wish to become members of your community. Nothing to indicate the mode in which the descent of property from parents to children is to be hereafter regulated, &c. &c. These, with several others, are matters which you have hitherto had little occasion to consider. They are questions, however, which will soon be forced upon your attention. They ought not, however, to be hastily dealt with, or be subjected to the operation of any arbitrary rule, the object of which you might be incapable of comprehending. I have therefore left them untouched for the present, in order that they might be submitted hereafter to the deliberate consideration of the people themselves, guided only by such advice as the Governor, from his position, and from the more extended means of information at his disposal, may be qualified to give.
Some advice upon matters of special interest to the community, I shall now give, and I shall accompany this with such positive instructions to the chief magistrate as may tend to facilitate several of the arrangements which must very shortly be made.
The present state of matters on Norfolk Island is, I believe, altogether incompatible with its prosperity, or with the comfort and happiness of the people. You appear to be living, not on the produce of your own labour, but upon your capital, or rather upon that capital which was handed over to you by the Government for the purpose of being employed reproductively for your own benefit and that of your posterity. The scabby state of the sheep and the impossibility of dressing them properly may be a sufficient reason for killing them off gradually but unless steps are soon taken to introduce more of this stock, and for allowing the cattle to increase, the supply of animal food will soon fall short of the wants of the people
The habit which you are acquiring of depending for a large portion of your food upon a source which is entirely independent of any exertion of your own, must manifestly lead to the introduction of improvident and idle habits which cannot be too carefully guarded against The first thing therefore to be done, is to make a positive and marked distinction between public and private property to give to each head of a family an absolute right of property in a certain amount of land and to make him a present of a sufficient number of cattle &c. to enable him to cultivate that land with advantage supposing him to exercise the ordinary amount of forethought and industry
When this has been done an end should be put at once and for ever to any gratuitous distributions of food, clothing & from public funds except, perhaps to those who, from age infirmity and mental or bodily incapacity are unable to maintain themselves
In order to pave the way for this important change the chief magistrate will arrange with the heads of families and with those unmarried persons who may wish to acquire property of their own for the selection by each of such an amount of land not in any case exceeding 50 acres in such a position as may seem to them most advantageous A rough approximation to the area of a piece of land may be made by stepping round it and the following table will give the number of paces each pace being taken at 30 inches, which it will take to include certain areas:
Area in acres No. of paces in circumference No of paces in each side square
10 acres 1 026 256
20 “ 1 450 368
30 “ 1 780 445
40 “ 2053 513
50 “ 2 296 569
Marks should be placed at the corner of these allotments, and I will send properly qualified persons to make the necessary surveys and plans of the different properties from which the formal grants will be drawn up and issued by me in pursuance of the powers vested in me by Her Majesty. Looking, however, to the object which, as I have before stated, the Government had in view in removing the present occupants from Pitcairn to Norfolk Island, I do not think that the grant in fee simple to the settler should be altogether unconditional. I do not think that it would be desirable to allow the settler to sell the land to persons unconnected with the island. Should any one wish to leave the island, his property should be first offered to individual inhabitants, and should none be willing to purchase it, the community might be empowered to do so at a valuation.
When the allotments of land have been selected, the following articles may be handed over to each occupant:
1st. A certain number of cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, &c.
2nd. Such tools and implements as may be necessary to enable him to cultivate the land.
3rd. Such an amount of corn, potatoes, &c., &c., as may be necessary to enable him to plant a sufficient area to maintain his family.
The amount of stock should not be too great; a cow or an ox to every ten acres, will, I think, be ample.
Each proprietor will put a mark upon his own stock to enable him to distinguish it from that of his neighbours, and from that of the public, and these marks should be notified the chief magistrate, and recorded by him, and when once established, should not be allowed to be modified or altered.
The stock of individual proprietors may be allowed to run upon the unallotted parts of the island for the present; but as it is evident that this unallotted portion will rapidly diminish as fresh families take up grants of land, it will be necessary that each proprietor should take early steps to fence in his own land, and to divide it off in such a manner as will enable him to keep his own stock on his own ground.
It is the more necessary that this should be done, as the manure made by the stock will ultimately be required for the proper cultivation of the soil. At present, this is very rich; but each proprietor will act wisely in looking forward to the period when, in order to obtain proper crops, it will be necessary to apply manure, and in commencing to collect manure for that purpose at once.
When the land and a proper amount of stock has been handed over to different individuals, it must be distinctly understood that nothing is to be drawn by any one from the public store for his private use, without payment for the same at its full market price.
As no individual settler is in a position to establish a store, it is necessary that a public store should be maintained, at which clothing, stores, tools &c., should be kept for sale, a fixed price being placed upon each article, so that every person may know what he will have to pay.
The establishment of a store will entail the appointment of a storekeeper, to whom the charge of all public stores of every kind will be handed over, and who will be held accountable for them. He will have to keep an account against each individual settler, crediting him with any payments, either in money, stock, or produce, and debiting him with the cost of any article which he may have purchased from the store.
The storekeeper may also be the schoolmaster; the salary which he will receive for the performance of these duties, together with the contingent advantages, will probably be sufficient to enable the community to secure the services of a competent person.
I have said that the chief magistrate should see that the labour of the islanders is properly applied to the cultivation of the ground.
It appears to me that in order to place the community in a position to feed themselves without reference to the adjacent colonies, at least 80 acres of maize should be planted; and, looking to the calls which may be made upon this crop for other purposes, it would be better to plant 100 acres of maize, irrespective of the land appropriated to the growth of potatoes, yams, bananas, and other vegetable products. If then such an amount of land has to be brought under cultivation, the labour of every member of the community should be rendered available toward it, and some check should be imposed upon the prolonged absence of those, who by going away from tie island for a time during the preparation of the ground for a crop, do, in point of fact, compel others to do their work. When once the land is given over to individuals, then any check of this kind will be unnecessary, but till then it should be imposed.
The present mode of working the ground with the hoe is both dilatory and unsatisfactory; it would be as well, as soon as possible, to introduce the use of the plough; until this is done, the labour of a large portion of the adult inhabitants will be expended in the production of food, leaving but little available for the cultivation of articles which will be useful to exchange for the products of other countries.
I am not aware, however, that there is any person on the island who knows how to use a plough. In the same way the islanders are now placed in possession of buildings constructed of stone and plastered within and without, yet they are not in a position to carry out any repairs of these houses, as they know not how to burn lime, to make mortar, to plaster walls and ceilings, &c. in fact there are several trades which ought, for the comfort and convenience of the inhabitants, to be practised on the island, but of which the present settlers are ignorant.
They have water and windmills, yet for want of a competent millwright and smith, they must grind their corn in hand mills; how then can those immediate and prospective wants be adequately supplied?
With regard to tie millwright and smith, I do not think it at all improbable that a competent person might be induced to settle upon the island by the grant of the water and windmill, subject to a condition that he would grind all the corn of the community at a fixed rate, that is, as in Canada, at a fixed proportion of the quantity brought to the mill, say one—twelfth the same person would be qualified to act as smith, for the repair of tools, &c. , &c. , and as wheelwright were a circular saw attached to the mill-wheel, all the timber required for the use of the community might be cut up at a cheap rate.
For the repair of the houses a mason and plasterer will be required, and a shoemaker is very much wanted it may be possible to induce a few persons of this stamp to settle on the island; but beyond those whose services may be said to be actually indispensable to the comfort and welfare of the inhabitants, I should not be disposed to admit of the introduction of any strangers.
Pending then the establishment of some rule as regards this, the chief magistrate will understand that he is not to permit strangers to remain on the island, or to occupy, except for a short visit, any of the public buildings. There is one point which it is advisable to bring at once under the notice of the people, not with a view to any immediate action, but for the purpose of carefully considering the course which it may hereafter be desirable to adopt.
Hitherto the public funds have been adequate to supply the wants of the community; the sale of wool, tallow, live stock, &c., has produced a sum sufficient to cover the expense of purchasing flour, clothing, &c., but this source of revenue will very soon be dried up, and it will be necessary to devise some mode in which these expenses, which are properly chargeable upon the general fund of the community (which expenses must annually increase) may be adequately provided for, I mean such expenses as payment to the chaplain, to the storekeeper, the maintenance of roads and public buildings, the salary of the chief magistrate &c., &c. There are several modes in which this may be done, but I am disposed to think, looking to the peculiar constitution of the society, that the best mode would be to tithe the produce of every kind, and thus to create one fund upon which all these payments would be chargeable.
These are the principal suggestions which I have to make at present, and I do not think that any positive instructions, save those embodied in this paper, will be required by the chief magistrate; I will conclude then by assuring the islanders of the affectionate interest I take in their welfare, and by praying them to remember that all the blessings which they have received are God’s gift, and are to be employed in His service, not necessarily by any special dedication of them, but by striving in everything to do His will and to walk in His way.
(signed) W. Denison
Since the above was written I have ascertained from the reports of the gentlemen whom I requested to inspect the land under cultivation, that the amount is far less than I had anticipated, that it does not exceed 20 acres, a quantity which, even under favourable circumstances, would not be sufficient to provide vegetable food for the population of the island; it would therefore be very desirable to plant as much more land as could be prepared while the weather will admit of this being done, but it would be of much more importance that you should take warning by this, and be prepared in forthcoming years to meet the wants of the community which can only be done by substituting the plough for the hoe under these circumstances it would be desirable that I should in addition to the mechanics and others before specified try to induce a well-qualified agriculturist to settle among you.
(signed) W D
Source — Dispatches from the Governor of Norfolk Island House of Commons Papers 29 May 1863 contained in British parliamentary Papers Colonies, Australia Vol 24 Sessions 1862-63 I.U.P.