Governor Phillip’s Instructions (1787)

The facts surrounding the settlement of Australia often become obscured by political rhetoric and so it is important to know that George III and his advisers and in particular those responsible for carrying out the initial voyage were given strict instructions to treat the original inhabitants with humanity and understanding.

[These draft instructions form the first official wording related to the settling and development of Australia. They are held in the Public Records Office in the UK and have a number of emendations - shown in the text below with crossed through writing. The instructions, composed by Lord Sydney and agreed by King George III with the advice of the Privy Council, formed the basis of the running of the first settlement.]


Instructions for Our Trusty George R and well beloved Arthur Phillip Esq. Our Captain General and Governor in Chief, in and over (LS.) Our Territory of New South Wales and its Dependencies, or to the Lieutenant Governor or Commander in Chief of the said Territory for the time being. Given at Our Court at St. James the 25th day of April 1787. In The Twenty Seventh year of Our Reign.

With these Our Instructions you will receive Our Commission under Our Great seal constituting and appointing you to be Our Captain General and Governor in Chief of Our Territory called New South Wales


extending from the Northern Cape or Extremity of the Coast called Cape York in the Latitude of Ten Degrees thirty seven Minutes south, to the Southern Extremity of the said Territory of New South Wales, or South Cape, in the Latitude of Forty three Degrees Thirty nine Minutes south, and of all the Country Inland to the Westward as far as the One hundred and Thirty fifth Degree of East Longitude, reckoning from the Meridian of Greenwich including all the Islands adjacent in the Pacific - Ocean within the Latitudes aforesaid of 10 o 37' South, and 43o 39' South, and of all Towns, Garrisons, Castles, Forts, and all other Fortifications, or other Military Works which may be hereafter erected upon the said Territory, or any of the said Islands, with directions to obey such Orders and Instructions as shall from time to time be given to you under Our Signet and Sign Manual, or by Our Order in our Privy Council; You are therefore to fit Yourself with all convenient speed, and to


hold yourself in readiness to repair to Your said Command, and being arrived, to take, upon the execution of the place and trust We have reposed in You, and as soon as conveniently may be with all due solemnity to cause our said Commission under our Great Seal of Great Britain constituting you Our Governor and Commander in chief as aforesaid, to be read and published. And whereas we have ordered that about 600 Male, and 180 Female Convicts now under sentence or order of Transportation whose names are contained in the List hereunto annexed,

Lady Penrhyn
Prince of Wales
Golden Grove

should be removed out the Gaols and other places of Confinement in this Our Kingdom, and be put on board of the several Transport Ships which have been taken up for their reception. It is our Royal Will and Pleasure that as soon as the said Convicts, the several persons composing the Civic Establishments, and the Stores, Provisions etc provided for their use shall be embarked on board the Supply Tender, and the Transport


Ships named in the Margin, and be in readiness to depart, that you do take them under your protection and proceed in the Sirius with the said Tender and Transports to the Port on the Coast of New South Wales, situated in the Latitude of 33o41' called by the name of Botany Bay, agreeably to the Instructions with which you will be furnished by the Commissioner of Our Admiralty, in pursuance of our Royal Commands already signified to them. And Whereas it may happen upon your Passage to New South Wales that you may find it necessary and expedient to call with the Ships and Vessels under your Convoy, at the Island of Teneriffe, at the Rio di Janeiro, and also at the Cape of Good Hope, for Supplies of Water, and other Refreshments for the Voyage; It is Our further Will and Pleasure, that you do, upon your arrival at the former of, those places, take on board any of the ships of the Convoy which you may


think proper, such quantities of Wine as may be requisite for the supply of the said settlement, according to the Instructions with which the Commissary of Stores and Provisions will be furnished by the Commissioners of Our Treasury, taking care that the Quantities purchased do not exceed the proportions to be issued to the several Persons composing the said settlements entitled thereto, agreeably to the said Instructions, for the time to which they have confined the Supply of that article; and for the Amount of such purchases, You will direct the Commissary to draw Bills of Exchange upon them properly certified by you, or Our Lieut: Governor of the said intended settlement, with the other usual attestations, that the same has been obtained at the most reasonable Rates, transmitting at the same time an account thereof to them in order that You may be released from any Imprest which


such purchases might occasion. Notwithstanding there is already a considerable quantity of Corn and other seed Grain put onboard the Ships of the Convoy, most likely probably more than may be immediately necessary for raising supplies for the settlement; We are disposed to guard as much as possible against accidents which may happen, or Injuries which these articles might sustain during the Passage; It is therefore Our further Will and Pleasure, that you do upon your arrival at any of the Places you may have occasion to touch at, endeavour to obtain such further Quantities of Seed Grain as You may think requisite for the Tillage of the Land, at the place of your Destination; And also that You do take onboard any number of Black Cattle, Sheep, Goats or Hogs which you can procure, and the Ships of the Convoy can contain, in order to propagate the


Breed of these Animals for the general Benefit of the intended settlement, causing the Commissary of Stores and Provisions to draw Bills for the same as in before directed for such Supplies, as well as for any Fresh Provisions which it may be requisite to procure for the use of the Marines or Convicts, at those places, and transmitting information to the Commissioners of Our Treasury such proceedings.

And Whereas it is intended that several of the Transport Ships and Victuallers which are to accompany you to New South Wales, should be employed in bringing home Cargoes of Tea, and other Merchandise, from China, for the use of our the East India Company; provided they can arrive at Canton , on or before the 1st of January 1788 in due time whereby a very considerable saving would arise to the Public in the Freight of these Vessels; It is Our Royal Will and Pleasure, that upon your arrival at Botany Bay, on the said Coast of New South Wales, You do cause every possible exertion to be


made use of for disembarking the Officers and Men composing the Civil and Military Establishments, together with the Convicts, Stores, Provisions etc and having so done you are to discharge all the said Transports or Victuallers, in order that such of them as may be engaged by the East India Company may proceed to China, and that the rest may return home; You will however take care, before the said Transport Ships are discharged, to obtain an assignment to You or the Governor in chief for the time being, from the Masters of them, of the servitude of the several Convicts, for the remainder of the Times or Terms specified in their several sentences or Orders of Transportation.

According to the best Information which We have obtained, Botany Bay appears to be the most eligible situation upon the said Coast for the first Establishment, possessing a commodious Harbour and other Advantages which


no part of the Coast hitherto discovered affords. It is therefore Our Will and Pleasure that you do immediately upon your landing after taking Measures for securing Yourself and the people who accompany you, as much as possible from any attacks or Interruptions of the Natives of that Country, as well as for the preservation and safety of the Public Stores, proceed to the Cultivation of the Land, distributing the Convicts for that purpose in such manner, and under such Inspectors or Overseers and under such Regulations as may appear to You to be necessary and best calculated for procuring Supplies of Grain and Ground Provisions. The Assortment of Tools and Utensils which have been provided for the use of the Convicts and other Persons who are to compose the intended settlement, are to be distributed according to Your discretion, and according to the employment, assigned to the several persons. In the Distribution however, you will use every


proper degree of economy, be careful that the Commissary do transmit an Account of the Issues from time to time to the Commissioners of Our Treasury, to enable them to judge of the propriety or expediency of granting farther supplies. The Clothing of the Convicts and the Provisions issued to them, and the Civil and Military Establishments must be accounted for in the same manner. And Whereas the Commissioners of Our Admiralty have appointed Capt. Hunter to repair on board the Sirius to assist you in the execution of Your Duty, and to take the Command of the Ship whenever you may see occasion to detach her from the Settlement, and also to station the supply Tender under Your Orders, and to be assisting to You upon occasional services after your arrival. And whereas it is Our Royal Intention that Measures should be taken in addition to those which are specified in the Article of these Our Instructions, for


obtaining Supplies of Live Stock, and having in consequence of such Intention, caused a Quantity of Arms and other Articles of Merchandise to be provided, and sent out in the Ships under your Convoy, in order to barter with the Natives either on the Territory of New South Wales, or the Islands adjacent in those Seas, who found their ignorance of the value of .........for such Articles; It is our Will and Pleasure that as soon as either of these Vessels can be spared with safety from the Settlements that you do detach one or both of them for that purpose, confining their Intercourse as much as possible to such parts as are not in the possession or under the Jurisdiction of other European Powers; The Increase of the Stock of Animals, must depend entirely upon the measures you may adopt on the outset for their preservation, and as the settlement with be amply supplied with vegetable production and most likely with Fish, Fresh Provisions, excepting for the Sick and Convalescents, may in a great


degree be dispensed with; For these Reasons it will become you to be extremely cautious in permitting any Cattle, Sheep Hogs etc intended for propagating the Breed of such animals being to be slaughtered, until a competent stock may be acquired to admit of Your supplying the settlement from it with animal Food without having further recourse to the places from whence such stock may have originally been obtained. It is our Will and Pleasure that the Productions of all Descriptions acquired by the Labour of the Convicts It is our Will and Pleasure shall be considered as a Public Stock and which we so far leave to your disposal, that such parts there of as may be requisite for the subsistence of the said Convicts and their Families, or the Subsistence of the Civil and Military Establishments of the Settlement may be applied by you to that use. The remainder of such Productions you will reserve as a


provision for a further number of Convicts which you may expect will shortly follow you from hence, to be employed under your direction in the manner pointed out in these our Instructions to you. From the natural Increase of Corn and other vegetable food from a common Industry after the Ground has been once cultivated, as well as of Animals; It cannot be expedient that all the Convicts which accompany you, should be employed in attending only to the object of Provisions. And as it has been humbly represented unto us that advantages may be derived from the Flax Plant which is found in the Islands not far distant from the intended Settlement, not only as a means of acquiring Clothing for the Convicts and other persons who may become settlers, but from its superior excellence for a variety of maritime purposes and as it may ultimately may become an Article of Export.

It is therefore Our Will and Pleasure that you do particularly attend to its



Cultivation, and that you do send home by every opportunity which may offer, Samples of that Article, in order that a Judgement may be formed whether it may not be necessary to instruct you further upon this Subject.

And Whereas We are desirous that some further Information should be obtained of the several Ports or Harbours upon the Coast and the Islands contiguous thereto within the Limits of Your Government; you are, whenever the Sirius or the Supply Tender, can conveniently be spared, to send one, or both of them, upon that service. Norfolk Island situated in the Lat: and Long: East from Greenwich about being represented as a spot which may hereafter become useful; you are, as soon as circumstances will admit of it, to send a small Establishment thither to secure the same to us, and prevent its being occupied by the subjects of any other European Power, and you will cause any Remarks or Observations which you obtain in consequence


of this Instruction to be transmitted to Our Principal Secretary of State for Plantation affairs for Our Information.

And Whereas it may happen, when the Settlement shall be brought into some state of Regulation, that the service of the Sirius may not be necessary at the said settlement; and as we are desirous to diminish as much as possible the Expences which the intended Establishment occasions; You will, whenever the service of the said ship can be dispensed with, and or Capt. Hunter to return with to England; And as from such an arrangement, the Emoluments of your station will be diminished, It is our Royal Intention, that the same shall be made good to you by Bills to be drawn by you upon the Commissioners of Our Treasury.

You are to endeavour by every possible means to open an Intercourse with the Natives and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all Our Subjects to live in amity and kindness with them. And if any of Our Subjects shall wantonly destroy them, or give them any unnecessary Interruption in the exercise of


their several occupations. It is our Will and Pleasure that you do cause such offenders to be brought to punishment according to the degree of the Offence. You will endeavour to procure an account of the Numbers inhabiting the Neighbourhood of the intended settlement and report your opinion to one of our Secretaries of State in what manner Our Intercourse with these people may be turned to the advantage of this country.

And Whereas it is Our Royal Intention that all persons who may here after inhabit Our said Territory of New South Wales, or the Islands adjacent within Your Government should have full liberty of Conscience and the free Exercise of all such modes of Religious Worship as are not prohibited by Law, we do therefore herby require you to permit all Persons within your said Government to have such Liberty, and to exercise such modes of Religious Worship as are not prohibited by Law, provided they be contented with a quiet and peaceable

And it is further Our Royal Will and Pleasure that you do by all proper methods enforce a

due observance of Religion and good order among all the inhabitants of the new Settlement


and that you so take such steps for the one celebration of publick Worship as circumstances will permit

enjoyment of the same, not giving offence or scandal to Government. It is Our Will and Pleasure that you do cause the Laws against Blasphemy, Profaneness, adultery, Fornication, Poligamy, Incest, Profanation of the Lord’s Day, swearing and Drunkenness to be rigorously executed and that you do take due care for the punishment of the aforementioned Vices by Presentment upon Oath to be made to the Justices of the Peace at their Session by the Constables or other Inferior Officers, And for the further discouragements of Vice and promotion of Virtue and good morals, you are not to admit any Person to act as a Justice of the peace whose ill fame or Conversation may occasion Sandal, and especially you shall take care that the Lord’s Day be devoutly and duly observed that the Book of Common Prayer as by Law established in this Kingdom be read each Sunday and Holy day, and the Blessed sacraments be administered, according to the Rites of the Church of England. And if any Orthodox Minister already appointed


to that Settlement, or hereafter to be appointed shall appear to give Scandal either by his Deportment or Manners, or if any person not being in Orders shall preach or administer the Holy Sacrament in any Orthodox Church or chapel, you shall give in an account thereof to the Lord Bishop of London. And you are to take especial care that a Table of Marriages as established by the Canons of the Church of England be hung up in every Orthodox Church or Chapel and be duly observed, and also to transmit --- ---- --- an account of such Deaths, Marriages, and Births as may take place within your said Government, by every opportunity which offers to Our Secretary of state for Plantation Affairs.

And whereas from the great disproportion of Female Convicts, those of the Males, who are put under your Superintendance, it, appears advisable and necessary not only for the preservation of decency and good order, but for attending to domestic exercises that a further number of the latter should be introduced into the new


intended Settlements; You are, whenever the Sirius or the Tender shall touch at any of the Islands in the Seas, to instruct their Commanders to take on board any of the women who may be disposed to accompany them to the said settlements; you will however take special care, that the Officers who may happen to be employed upon this Service, do not upon any account, exercise any compulsive measures, or make use of fallacious pretences for bringing away any of the said Woman from the places of their present Residence.

If any of these women shall hereafter arrive at the intended settlements, you will exert every means to prevent their living in common with the Convicts, hold out every indulgence which it may be in your power to grant, to promote matrimonial Connexion, which must upon many accounts be productive of great advantage to the settlement, as well as to the Interests and Happiness of the Individuals.

And Whereas We have by our Commission bearing date


given and granted unto you other acknowledgements whatsoever full power and authority to emancipate and discharge from their Servitude, any of the Convicts under your superindendance, who shall from their good conduct and a disposition to Industry, be deserving of favor; It is our Will and Pleasure that in every such case you do issue your Warrant to every such to the Surveyor of Lands person as you may think competent to the discharge of that trust to make surveys of, and mark out in Lots such Lands upon the said Territory as may be necessary for their use; and when that shall be done, that you do pass Grants thereof with all convenient speed to any of the said Convicts so emancipated, in such proportions, and under such conditions and acknowledgements, as shall hereafter be specified . Viz To every Male shall be granted, 30 Acres of land, and in case he shall be married, 20 Acres more, and for every child who may be with them at the Settlement, at the time of making the said Grant, a further quantity of 10 Acres, free of all Fees, Taxes, Quit Rents, or, for the


space of Ten years, provided that the person to whom the said Land shall be been granted, shall reside within the same, and proceed to the cultivation and improvement thereof. Reserving only to us such Timber as may be growing, or to grow hereafter, upon the said Land, which may be fit for Naval purposes, and an annual Quit Rent of Bushel of wheat after the expiration of the term or time before mentioned. You will cause Copies of such Grants as may be passed to be preserved, and make a regular return of the said Grants to the Commissioners of Our Treasury and the Lords of the Committee of Our Privy Council for Trade and Plantations.

And Whereas it is likely to happen that the Convicts, who may, after their Emancipation, in consequence of this Instruction, be put in possession of Lands, will not have the means of proceedings to their Cultivation without the Public Aid; it is Our Will and Pleasure that you do cause every such person you may so emancipate, to be supplied with such a Quantity of Provisions as may be sufficient, for the subsistence of himself and also of this family for twelve months, together with an


assortment of Tools and Utensils, and such a proportion of Seed Grain, Cattle, Sheep, Hogs etc as may be proper, and can be spared from the general stock of the Settlement.

And Whereas many of Our subjects, employed upon Military service, at the said Settlement, and others who may resort thither upon their private occupations, may hereafter be desirous of proceedings to the cultivation and Improvement of the Land, and as we are dispersed to afford them every reasonable Encouragement in such an undertaking; It is Our Will and Pleasure that you do with all convenient speed transmit a report of the actual state and Quality of the Soil at and near the said intended Settlement, the probable and most effectual means of Improving and Cultivating the same and in what manner it can best be done and of the mode and upon what terms and conditions according to the best of your Judgements the said Lands should be granted, that proper Instructions and authorities may be given to you for that purpose.


And Whereas It is Our Royal Intention that every sort of Intercourse between the intended settlement at Botany Bay, or other places which may be hereafter - established on the coast of New South Wales, and its Dependencies, and the settlements of Our East India Company, as well as the Coasts of China, and the Islands situated in that part of the World, to which any Intercourse has been established by any European Nation, should be prevented by every possible means; It is Our Royal Will and Pleasure that you do not upon any account allow Craft of any sort to be built for the use of private Individuals, which might enable them to effect such Intercourse, and that you do prevent any Vessels which may at any time hereafter arrived the said settlement from any of the Ports before mentioned, from having communication with any of the Inhabitants residing within your


Government, without first receiving especial permission from you for that purpose.



1787 Ap. 20,

Gov. Philip’s Instructions Referred to the Committee 20 April, 1787 New South Wales

Governor Arthur Philip Raising the BritishFlag on Australian Soil