Research tools

  •   Menu
  •   Search
  • Share
  •   Help

Series 27: Correspondence, being mainly letters received by Banks from William Patterson, 1782, 1790-1808

Provenance note

Most of the documents in this series are part of an accession of Banks papers purchased for the Mitchell Library from Sotheby's, London, in May 1929. They include documents 3-8, previously located at ML A81; documents 15-19, previously located at ML A82; and documents 33-36 and 39, previously located at ML A83.

Documents 23, 25-31 and 37 were previously located at ML A78-3. Document 1 was previously located at ML A80-2. These papers, purchased in 1884 from Lord Brabourne by Sir Saul Samuel, the Agent-General for New South Wales, were transferred to the Mitchell Library in 1910. They were part of the accession which became known as the Brabourne collection.

Some of these documents were used by the compilers of Historical records of New South Wales, vol 4, (1896), vol 5 (1897) and vol 6 (1898), and include annotations made by the compilers.

Documents 2, 9-14, 21, 32 and 38 in this series were previously located at DL MS Q158. They are part of the personal library of Sir William Dixson which was bequeathed to the State Library of New South Wales in 1952. Dixson's bequest was formally handed over when the Dixson Library was opened in 1959.

Of the remaining documents which complete this series, document 22 was previously located at ML MSS 681/3. It was acquired for the Library from an unknown source. Document 24, previously located at ML Doc 1450, was acquired for the Library from W.A. Myers in 1969.

Some of these documents also include the original folio numbers assigned by Banks, written in ink in the top right hand corner.

It is now not possible to reconstruct Banks' original arrangement, the series has therefore been arranged chronologically.

Background note

William Paterson, a regular correspondent with Sir Joseph Banks, arrived in the colony in New South Wales in October 1791, a captain in the New South Wales Corps. Soon after his arrival he was assigned to Norfolk Island where he served as commander of the settlement from November 1791 until March 1793.

After his return to Sydney from Norfolk Island, he was active in exploring the areas surrounding the Sydney. In September 1793 he attempted an unsuccessful crossing of the Blue Mountains, and named the Grose River. In 1799 and 1800 he travelled to the Hawkesbury gathering specimens and searching for coal, and in 1801 explored the Hunter River with Lieutenant James Grant.

Promoted second-in-command of the Corps he assumed command of the colony, acting as administrator, following the departure of Major Francis Grose in December 1794 until the arrival of Governor John Hunter in September 1795. In 1796 he returned to England and was finally elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, for which he had long solicited the intervention of Banks, in recognition of his contribution to natural history while in Australia.

Returning to Sydney in November 1799, Paterson became highly critical of Hunter's administration. Commodity prices were high, spirits were being imported into the colony in huge quantities, and there was a constant fear of armed insurrection by the Irish convicts.

In 1804 Paterson was appointed Lieutenant Governor by the incoming Governor, Philip Gidley King. In September he was wounded in a duel over a disagreement which arose with John Macarthur over Macarthur's alleged disclosure of confidential information while Macarthur was assisting Paterson. As a consequence, Macarthur was sent to England by Governor King to face court martial. This incident contributed to a deterioration in relations between Paterson and King, already strained during the visit in 1802 of Nicholas Baudin's expedition to Sydney when accusations were levelled at French officers over trading in spirits.

In May 1804 instructions were received from England to found new settlements in Tasmania. The settlement at Norfolk Island was to be disbanded. Paterson was appointed Lieutenant Governor of a settlement located at Port Dalrymple [Launceston]. He sailed from Sydney in October 1804. The outpost settlement was founded in November. Paterson's headquarters were located at York Town.

In February 1808 Paterson received the news of the deposition of Governor William Bligh which had taken place on 26 January. Paterson initially intended to sail to Sydney then became reluctant to become involved with the provisional government. He finally arrived in Sydney in January 1809 and took command from Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Foveaux until the arrival of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in January 1810.

Natural history had been an enduring personal interest of Paterson's. He was an assiduous collector of botanical specimens which he regularly despatched to Sir Joseph Banks. He introduced various fruits and helped develop horticulture in the colony, and explored many inland areas.