The Spectre of debt in Van Diemen's Land 1817 - 1831 and some ameliorations

John Bourke, Rosemary Lucadou-Wells

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The paper fIrstly considers the complex of reasons why people could not pay debts in Van Diemen's Land ('VDL') between 1817 and 1830. Secondly, it considers the consequences of debts in VDL, in the light of selected cases before the Lieutenant-Governor's court between 1817 and 1823 and the VDL Supreme court between 1824 and 1830. Finally, the paper looks at Rule of Practice Number 11, a remedy introduced by VDL legal practitioners on 3 May 1831. His Honour Chief Justice Pedder was pleased to accept Rule 11,commenting it would relieve the Colony from 'much and serious inconvenience' in that it addressed the scenario of arrest at fIrst instance for non-payment of debt. The main sources for the paper consist of surviving original documents from the Lieutenant-Governor's court, colonial newspapers and the on-line website of Stefan Petrow and Bruce Kercher,'Colonial Case Law Online'. The paper posits that the development of Rilles of Practice by lawyers is important in itself because it: - Illustrates the emergence of a legal system in response to the specific requirements of VDL as distinct from the adoption of precedents from England - Highlights the helping, altruistic role of the legal profession - Emphasises the 'freedom' of the colonists to make rules for themselves, rather than having a Parliament legislate. 'All men are ready to invest their money, but most expect dividends ... I say: take no thought of the harvest, but only of proper sowing.'
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-164
Number of pages18
JournalThe University of Notre Dame Australia law review
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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