British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

38
SWAN RIVER: WILLIAM HUSKISSON TO GOVERNOR RALPH DARLING, 28 January 18281

SIR,

His Majesty's Government have given their fullest attention to the report of Captain Stirling,2 transmitted in your dispatch No. 56 of the 21st of April last, respecting Swan River, situated in the north western coast of New Holland, to which place he had proceeded with the view of ascertaining whether this situation was as eligible for a settlement as was supposed.

It is evident, from the result of Captain Stirling's examination, that many of the advantages required for a settlement exist in the neighbourhood of that river; but, on the other hand, the great distance of this part of the coast from Sydney and the uncertainty at all times of the passage through Basses' Strait appears to render it extremely difficult to form and keep up an establishment there, as it cannot be viewed as a dependence upon the present colony, but wholly in the light of a new one, almost as much separated from New South Wales as it would be from England, and consequently requiring, if formed, all the machinery of a distinct Government.

Under these circumstances, I am of opinion that it would be inexpedient, on the score of expense, to occupy this part of the coast, and that it is unnecessary, with a view to any urgent interest, to attempt any new settlement at present in that quarter, especially as Captain Stirling's anticipation of a commercial intercourse with India, or as a place to which Europeans resident in India would be disposed to repair to recruit their health, etc., are not likely to be realized from the dangers which surround the whole range of the western coast, not excepting even that part of it in question, and which would naturally induce ships bound to India to avoid rather than to wish to approach it.

I shall not fail, however, to apprize the East India Company of the circumstances attending the discovery of Swan River, in case they should consider it advisable to make any settlement there; but I am not aware of any sufficient motive to induce them to embark in an undertaking of this nature. . . .

____________________
1

H.R.A., Series I, vol. xiii ( 1920), pp. 739-40. William Huskisson had succeeded Nepean in 1795 as Under-Secretary in the War Department. He entered the House of Commons in 1796, and was appointed Colonial Agent for the Cape in 1798 and for Ceylon in 1810. He was Secretary to the Treasury under Pitt in 1804 and under Portland in 1812, and became a Privy Councillor in 1814. In 1822, he was appointed Treasurer to the Navy and President of the Committee for Trade when his friend, Canning, joined the Liverpool administration. On Canning's death he was Secretary of State for War and the Colonies from 1827 to 1828.

2
Captain James Stirling had explored the Swan River in March 1827 and reported so favourably to Governor Darling that the latter supported his representations for a new colony there.

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