VDL Governor’s Despatches to Colonial Office 1826 to 1832

One of the puzzles encountered when preparing to transfer the official copies of the legislation passed by the Legislative Council of Van Diemen’s Land was the whereabouts of some of the manuscript copies of Acts from 1826-1832. In theory all Acts from 1826 should have been held in the Records of the Supreme Court, until the responsibility was transferred to the Tasmanian Archives Heritage Office in mid-2013. However, the earliest Act in the Supreme Court collection is 4 Will IV Extending Existing Liquor Licences, No 1 of 1833. Of the 35 Acts made from 1826-1831 (no Acts passed in 1929 or 1832), 15 have been identified as already transferred to TAHO (reasons unknown but appears to have been mistakenly done under the Public Records Act 1943) leaving 20 original handwritten copies unaccounted for, though we know copies were sent to the Colonial Office as enclosures.

A search through the Register of the Governor’s Despatches to the Colonial Office provides the following details:

  • 13/12/1826 – enclosing copies of Acts of Council as per 4 Geo IV, Chap 96, section 30 (New South Wales Act 1823) – 3 Acts
  • 24/09/1827 – transmitting Acts of Legislative Council Nos 1, 2, 3 and 4, with observations on same
  • 03/10/1827 – transmitting Acts 1 – 5 of Legislative Council
  • 01/02/1830 – transmitting copies of all VDL Acts of Council
  • 16/04/1830 –  transmitting copies of 14 new Acts of Legislative Council

It appears that on 1 February 1830 copies of the 12 Acts previously transmitted were sent again. With 14 more Acts sent in April 1830, the total number of Acts passed at that time comes to 26. These Acts were ordered to be printed by the House of Commons and presented to Parliament as required by Act 9 Geo IV Chap 83, section 29, (now referred to as Australia Courts Act 1828) titled Copies of the Laws and Ordinances passed by the Governor and Council of the Colony of Van Diemen’s Land. The Tasmanian State Library holds a copy of this  item in the Elephant Stack at TL.E 348.946024 TAS.

No Acts were passed in 1829. In 1830 the Legislative Council passed a total of 20 Acts. Manuscript copies of 14 of these Acts have already been transferred to Archives, and the remaining six Acts can be viewed in manuscript form at Tasmania: Acts – Manuscript. Only one more Act was published (in 1831) before the Supreme Court of Tasmania collection begins.  2 Will IV No 1 – Administration of Justice in the Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land can also be viewed at the above link, although not in manuscript form. The copy transmitted to the Colonial Office was a printed version.

Acts identified as missing from the Supreme Court collection are listed below:

  • 5 Will IV No 10 and 6 Will IV No 9 are both Appropriation Acts which would have expired at the end of the financial year. Manuscript copies of both Acts can be viewed in the Australian Joint Copying Project Collection for the period 1 January 1834 to 31 December 1837.

  • 6 Will IV No 3 was an Act to correct two clerical errors in 6 Will IV No 2, Courts of General Sessions and punishment and control of Transported and Other Offenders which had been passed on 4 August 1835. The amending Act (No 3) was passed on 19 August and both Acts published in the Gazette on 20 August 1835. The principal Act, No 2, now included the amendments made by the amending Act, but was still  shown as being passed on 4 August. A check of the manuscript copy of  Act No 2 in the Supreme Court collection shows that the corrections were not made to this copy. There is no copy of Act No 3, in the Supreme Court Collection, although there is one (very poor quality) in manuscript form, created by the Australian Joint Copying Project. Strangely there is no copy of Act No 2 in the AJCP Collection. In summary an amendment has been incorporated into the principal Act No 2 in the Gazette, while the clerical errors identified in Act No 3 have not been made to the original manuscript version. In addition, there is no manuscript version of amending Act No 3 in the Supreme Court Collection.

  • Neither Act No 31/1962 (Amending the Guest House Registration Act) nor Act No 31/1963 (amending the Probation of Offenders Act) have been located.

  • After its receipt by the Registrar, Act No 55/2005 was listed in the Consignment List as:

2005 No 55 Taxation Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2005

The Act had received the Royal Assent on 9 December 2005, and was then forwarded to the Registrar, and duly signed as being received into the records of the Court. When all the entries in the Consignment List were checked against the Acts in the Archive Boxes, the physical copy of Act 55/2005 was missing. The reason was that the Legislative Council had requested the Registrar to return the Act as invalidly made and making revoked.

No other request for the return of an Act had ever been received by the Court. When Acts were disallowed either by the Queen, the Judges or the Tasmanian Parliament, the physical copy remained in the records of the  Supreme Court.

An enquiry to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel provided the following explanation:

There is no Act No 55 of 2005. The Governor cancelled his signature by which he purported to assent to Bill No 74 of 2005.

Contrary to the advice given to the Governor, the Bill had not passed both Houses of Parliament, so the assent given by the Governor on 9 December 2005 had no effect in law. Notice of cancellation was published in Gazette 18 January 2006, p 51.

About dashea2014

A Law Librarian with extensive experience in general legal and court libraries. Editor of the Australian Law Librarian for 4.5 years (2008-2012) and active member of Law Libraries Tasmania. Special topics - Tasmanian legislation and case law. A passion for maintaining access to print resources.
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