David Collins

Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins

Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins,
c. 1802, unknown artist
Engraving

At the age of 14 David Collins joined the Royal Marines and by 1780 had risen to the rank of captain. In 1786 he was commissioned Deputy-Judge-Advocate of the proposed new colony of New South Wales. He arrived in Sydney with the First Fleet in 1788 and on 7 February, when the government was formally proclaimed, Collins read the relevant Act, commissions and Letters Patent for the establishmenet of the colony. Under Governor Arthur Phillip, Collins was responsible for the administration of legal matters in New South Wales. Although he had no legal training Collins performed his duties conscientiously issuing all writs, summonses and processes and presiding over the civil and criminal courts. He returned to England in 1797. While in England he wrote and published An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, an important work on the early settlement. Collins was later commissioned to establish the prosposed new dependency in Van Diemen's Land and in 1804 he chose the site of Hobart as the base for a new settlement. He served as Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land until he died in 1810.

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Transcript, Letter from Evan Nepean to Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney, 9 November [1786], Manuscript, MLMSS 7656

[Page 1]

My Lord,
 
I have not heard from the Lord Chancellor since I sent your Lordship´s Letter to him.  I can see the propriety of omitting to propose any other punishment than that which Aylett is Sentenced to suffer.  If the Lord Chanceller thinks the man should not be exposed in the Pillory I dare say he will point out some other move for punishing him.  I think that in the course of my Life I never heard of so infamous a Character.

I have had half an hours conversation this morning with the Solicitor General and he

[Page 2]

has undertaken to bring the Botany Bay business to a speedy conclusion.  I have reason to think that he will immediately consult the Chanceller who has already I find mentioned the subject to him and I think we shall get on.  Your Lordship may expect to hear of their determination upon the Hand Bill,  I gave the Solr. a hint which he in an instant caught at.

 
I called upon Lord Howe this morning, and he makes no sort of difficulty in arranging the payment of the Value of the Vessel in any way which the Treasury may determine upon.  All he says is that should there be a deficiency in their Funds from

[Page 3]

the liquidating expences of this nature the.Treasury must provide for it by vote of Parliament.  I told him that a D.y Judge Advocate would be wanted, and that it was probable that he would be appointed also to Controul the Criminal and Civil Courts for the Trial of matter which might pass between the Convicts, and from what his Lordship says I do think that Cap.n Collins will answer the purpose.  When I mentioned a Civil & Criminal Court His Lordship seemed rather surprised as he had understood that the whole way to have been under Military Law, Convicts as well as Soldiers, and though I attempted

[Page 4]

to Convince his Lordship that the former were not amenable to Military discipline, he did not appear satisfied, but seemed to think perhaps without considering well the importance of the subject that they should be punished according to the discretion and judgment of the Governor even in capital part.  How far his Lordships opinion upon this matter may be proper to be adopted I will not pretend to say, but I should think that such a discretion would occasion infinite clamour at home.  However the matter will be talked over when the Cabinet next meet and I suppose something

[Page 5]

conclusive will be done.  As to the present to the Dey, it will not I should think break in upon the Civil List or the Admty. Fund, for the most acceptable present to the Barbary States would be Artillery and Ordnance Stores  Lord Howe suggested it and he is perfectly right.  Two or perhaps four of the ornamented brass Cannon & some ammunition to the value of between two & three thousand pounds might be drawn from the Ordnance.  When Your Lordship comes to Town I will mention the subject however more fully to you and in the mean time I shall make some enquiries of Mr. Pogers

[Page 6]

as to the value of those articles.
 
Sir John Woodhouse´s Letter has been referred & an answer obtained, and I shall write to him today.
 
The Dutchess is as Your Lordship will see by Stiles´s Letter to me a professed smuggler.  I send a Letter from Lewis desiring Your Lordhip´s assistance.
 
Did the Duke of Richmond object to Phillips having the 8 twelve pounders for his Fort?
 
I am Your Lordship´s
Obliged humble Serv
Evan Nepean
9 Nov.r