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No. 08, Tasmanian Troubles

Unfortunately for Franklin, as its new governor, and for its people, Tasmania, as is the case for so many of the infant colonies, was full of cliques which were hungry, jealous and self-seeking; it was essentially a parochial society.37 Tasmania was officially taken over by the British in 1825, it having been explored by British sea adventurers, such as: James Cook who in 1777 sailed into Adventure Bay with young William Bligh aboard. Bligh, himself returned aboard the Bounty in 1788 and then again in 1792 in the Providence. "Matthew Flinders and George Bass first proved Tasmania to be an island in 179899." The first governor, Sir George Arthur, who came in 182538, though likely capable in a number of ways, had the habit of appointing his relatives and friends to important positions within the colony. By the time Franklin came to take over Tasmania, many of the people of Tasmania were very unhappy; it became a hotbed of disputing factions.

Franklin's reputation as a naval officer and explorer had proceeded him; thus his appointment was well received. On his arrival his reception was enthusiastic. The second largest town of importance, Launcestown, greeted him and escorted him with "300 horsemen and seventy carriages. ... the hearty frankness of the new Governor's replies was contrasted with the official coldness ascribed to his predecessor."39 However, as Franklin settled in, he was obliged to work with his predecessor's appointments, even though certain of them were related to the former governor; so too, Franklin was obliged to pronounce his decisions on matters that were set up by the former governor. Where the decisions of the former regime came to him for a review, he would uphold those which made sense to him. Those people who were against the former regime - and there were many - soon came to the view that Franklin was a mere tool in the hands of the "Arthur faction." To many, Franklin was to be criticized, simply because, as the new Governor, he did not immediately reverse all the acts of his predecessor.

A peculiar problem, at the time, for the administration of Tasmania, was related to the fact that it was a colony, by British policy, that was populated by the riff-raft of Great Britain.

"During the late 18th and 19th centuries, large numbers of convicts were transported to the various Australian penal colonies by the British government. One of the primary reasons for the British settlement of Australia was the establishment of a penal colony to alleviate pressure on their overburdened correctional facilities. Over the 80 years, more than 165,000 convicts were transported to Australia."40
The course of Franklin's five year administration of the affairs of Tasmania, could take a book in itself, an interesting one. Traill wrote41 of the great difficulties that he had with this prisoner colony.42 The nature of this British colony combined with the fact that Franklin was "surrounded by factious and intriguing subordinates" led to a difficult time for Franklin, no matter that he demonstrated vigilance and dexterity during his time in Tasmania.

Under unfortunate circumstances, Franklin, in 1843, lost his job. It came about, generally, because of the trouble of trying to administer the government under the circumstances of this penal colony, as has been briefly described. The immediate cause was due to Franklin's dismissal of the Colonial Secretary of State for Tasmania, one Montague. Montague took ship for England to conduct his defense before those at the Colonial Office at London. Montague had friends, particularly the British Secretary of State, Lord Stanley. Stanley took Montague's side; Franklin was recalled.

Franklin took his leave of Tasmania and handed the reins over to his successor. By June of 1844, Franklin was at London making his rounds. Lord Stanley was reluctant to receive Franklin. Franklin, of course, wanted an opportunity to put his side of the matter before the decision maker; nothing came of it.

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Peter Landry
2015