Saturday, 11 August 2012

Laurence Butler- Ch. 16: Butler's Business Interests

Petition to Governor Macquarie, re imports from England

Laurence was one of  78 signatories to a memorial/petition to Governor Macquarie dated 19 November 1818, in which the Memorialists sought relief from the consequences of a decision by the British Government to forbid the importation of goods on convict transports to Sydney. [1] The reasons given by Lord Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonies, were that the importation of goods on transports restricted the amount of space available to the convicts, and that it had a damaging effect on the interests of local merchants. [2]
Macquarie himself initially gave effect to Bathurst’s order. However, on receiving the Memorial, he decided  that the order should not be enforced until it had been confirmed by Bathurst. He sent a despatch to Bathurst, strongly supporting the Memorial, and attaching a copy of it. In his despatch, Macquarie attributed Bathurst’s decision to self-interested lobbying in London by the merchant firm of Riley and Jones, whom he described as a “Selfish, sordid Firm’; and as ‘a sordid, Rapacious House’, and which he claimed to be the only alternative source of goods from England. [3]
Although the Memorialists queried whether convicts had been much  inconvenienced  by the practice of importing goods on convict transports, they did not actually argue for Bathurst’s decision to be reversed. They emphasised how difficult it was to get goods from Britain, owing to the very small number of ‘Mercantile Houses’ in the Colony; and they sought a lifting of the ban on vessels of over 350 tons trading between London and Sydney, a ban which had been retained when the East India Companys’ monopoly was ended in 1813. They proposed a reduction in the prescribed tonnage from 350 to 150 tons. The following year, Bathurst informed Macquarie that the ban had been lifted entirely, irrespective of tonnage. [4]

Of most significance in relation to Laurence himself, is the fact that the people signing the Memorial were, in Macquarie’s own words, ‘a great majority of the most respectable Inhabitants of the Colony’. [5]
The other signatories included such notables as John Macarthur (father of Merino sheep industry), William Gore (Provost Marshall), Simeon Lord (highly successful merchant and trader, shipowner, shipping agent, and manufacturer; pioneered sealing venutres in Colony), Mary Reiby (with husband Thomas Reiby- merchant trader, publican, property owners in Sydney- face on $A20 note),  Rowland Hassall ( wealthy landholder and Superintendant of Govt Stock),  Charles Throsby (naval surgeon, landholder, magistrate, member of Legislative Council 1825, and explorer- opened up routes to Bathurst and the Illawarra area), Thomas Moore (master boat builder H.M. Dockyard; Superintendant of Public Works; magistrate; on many Govt Committees), Richard Brooks (master mariner, including master of the infamous ‘Atlas I’ voyage, merchant, landholder and magistrate.), William Browne (merchant, magistrate, landholder), Robert Townson (scientist and landholder, brother of Captain John Townson Lt Gov Norfolk Is.), William Howe (magistrate, landholder, member of Philosophical Society and Agricultural Society), William Broughton ( Commissary and magistrate; Director of Bank of NSW), John William Lewin (coroner, painter, naturalist, landholder), James Larra (Jewish merchant- most successful businessman in Parramatta), Robert Campbell Jnr (son of Robert Campbell Snr-merchant, founder of Bank of NSW; in Naval Office 1807-10; Legislative Council 1825; owned Campbell’s wharves in the Rocks, landholder; son continued in family business), Thomas W. M. Winder (merchant, shipowner, landholder, proprietor Lachlan & Waterloo Water Mills),  Daniel Cooper (merchant, miller, brewer, proprietor Lachlan & Waterloo Water Mills ), William Leverton (merchant, proprietor Lachlan & Waterloo Water Mills), Eber Bunker (master mariner, landholder, member of Vice Admiralty Court, coroner, shipowner, accompanied the ‘Lady Nelson’ in the ‘Albion’ to establish Derwent settlement in 1803), John Redman (Chief Constable, Sydney Gaoler, owner two ships), Francis Williams (merchant in partnership with Simeon Lord 1810- 1813, magistrate, Trustee and Commissioner for Superintending construction and repair public highways; accountant then cashier for Bank of NSW), Michael Robinson (public servant, poet laureate, Deputy Provost Marshal 1819, Principal Clerk in Police Office 1821), George Thomas Palmer (son of John Palmer Commissary; acted as Provost Marshal in W. Gore’s absence, landholder, magistrate, appointed member of Governor’s Court 1817; Secretary Agricultural Society of NSW), Isaac Nichols (first postmaster, Principal Superintendant of Convicts, established shipyard 1805 & built “Governor Hunter”, Superintendant of Public Works and Assistant to the Naval Officer, father of George Robert Nichols solicitor), James Mileham (Assistant surgeon, magistrate at Castlereagh); John Connell ( Laurence’s friend and neighbour discussed earlier, merchant and landholder), Samuel Terry (Laurence’s neighbour, innkeeper, merchant, speculator in city and pastoral properties, later known as “Botany Bay’s Rothschild” due to wealth), William Davis (fellow rebel from Wexford, landholder, Catholic layman, discussed in detail in this document), plus, several members of the Commercial Society discussed earlier in document, ie. Robert Jenkins, James Wilshire, James Chisolm, David Bevan, John Laurie, Henry Marr, Joseph Inch, Joshua Palmer; and many other notable businessmen, merchants, and publicans.
Notably the only Irishmen who signed the document were Laurence, William Davis, Ed Redmond (publican “Foul Anchor”, dealer, and Catholic layman), and Patrick Cullen (publican “Hope and Anchor”).
Macquarie’s description of the group, and the numerous important signatories with whom Laurence was associated, provide clear support for the proposition that Laurence was well known and widely respected in the commercial community at the time.

On 17th May 1817, Laurence Butler was named in a List of Benefactors to the Auxiliary Bible Society of NSW,[6]  one of 80 contributors. He donated 10 shillings. John Oxley was one of the first officers of this society when it was formed in 1817. Interestingly, this was a Bible society formed by Protestants, and included many of Laurence’s business associates.
Back in 1809 he had made a subscription for ‘enclosing the burial ground’, [7]  one of 118 contributors. His contribution of 2s.6d, the same as other Irish convicts such as William Davis, William Gough, and Farrell Cuffe, and many others, was small in comparison to the £1 contributions of the wealthy merchants and the military officers in the Colony and notably John Reddington. Michael Hayes , who at that time was earning a comfortable income, contributed 10s. At this time, Laurence had only recently been released from Government labour, to work freely for himself.

The 1814 Convict Muster names a convict Thomas Tugman who had recently arrived on the “Three Bees”, [8]
a 23 year old labourer from County Fermanagh Ireland, given a life sentence. The Muster states he was a “servant to L. Butler”. Laurence must have been living quite comfortably, having been assigned a ‘servant’ for his household, unless he was assigned to the workshop or store.

An incident was reported in the ‘Sydney Gazette’ 5 Sept 1814:
The house of Mr Lawrence Butler, cabinet maker, in Pitt Street, was on Sunday 2nd ult, broke into in the afternoon, and robbed of notes and other property upwards of £150 value; of which £60 was in pay notes. Several persons were apprehended on suspicion, but since discharged for want of proof.” [9]
This would have been a considerable loss for Laurence, and may have caused financial hardship for him and his family. It further indicates that Laurence was in a sound financial position at the time of the theft.
The following incident was reported three years later on the 10th May 1817 in the “Sydney Gazette”:
“One of the persons who had been for some time looked at by the Police with a suspicious eye, was apprehended on Wednesday night while in the act of wrenching out a bar that secured the shutters of a shop in George Street; and was next day, for the misdemeanor, sentenced by the Superintendant of Police to one month’s solitary confinement in the county gaol, and twelve months hard labour at the Settlement of Newcastle. The name of the offender is Wainwright, who is one of the persons who some time ago was apprehended for robbing the house of Mr Butler, cabinet- maker in Pitt-street. An iron instrument about 13 inches long, sharply chiseled off at one end, which was next morning picked up near the window to which he had applied himself, was found to correspond with various indentions made in the stiles and shutters, and bore testimony, from its construction, to the ingenuity of the contriver.” [10]

Another incident was reported 14 January 1815 (“Sydney Gazette”):
“LOST, a Note of Hand, drawn in favor of Lawrence Butler on Col. MOLLE, amount £27 19 s 7 p Sterling. Payment being stopt it can be of no use to any Person but the Owner, Mr R. Brookes, Merchant, Sydney. – Whoever will bring the same to his Residence, in Pitt Street, will be rewarded for their trouble.”  [11] Molle was the Lt Governor, and the note of hand was presumably for purchases of furniture for the Lt. Governor’s residence. (NB The 46th Regiment of Foot under Colonel Molle arrived in 1814. The officers took a vow not to have dealings with convicts, at a time when Gov. Macquarie was encouraging the integration of emancipists into society. Following a dispute with D’Arcy Wentworth, Molle left for India in 1817 where he subsequently died.)

On 11 February, 1815, a payment totaling £2.10s. was made to Laurence and recorded in the Hassall account book, for four combs and a set of desk furniture. [12]

In November 1816, Laurence was advertising in the ‘Sydney Gazette’: “that his Ware-rooms are constantly supplied with every Article of Household Furniture in 3 Branches, to which an Apprentice will be taken. L.B. has now on Sale the following articles of late importation”, which he then lists, ranging from materials, haberdashery, hard-ware, imported foods and spices, to glassware and wine glasses.  [13] The three branches indicated in the advertisement probably referred to Laurence’s premises in Pitt Street and further properties in Kent Street and Elizabeth Streets, both purchased the previous year 1815. The advertisement also indicates that he was now in a sound financial position, although poorly paid and in debt (due to his large mortgage with Terry for the Pitt St property)
In the Bigge Report, Lawrence Butler of Pitt Street is on the "List of Carts licensed in Sydney". (Appendix p.274- ML Bonwick Transcripts Roll CY1303, B.T. 12 -1820?)

Claim re Debt

The following letter indicates that Laurence was in debt to Messrs Palmer & Co., related to the importation of his merchandise:
Butler, L; 1816 Jan 24 re claim against for debt

Letter written to  J.T. Campbell (Colonial Secretary) from  J.T. Bell [14]

(NB some words difficult to decipher.)
24 January 1816
I am afraid you will attribute it to inattention on my part in not waiting on you before this, but nothing but indisposition would have prevented me doing myself that pleasure some time ago.
As I understand the Emu is appointed to Sail on Sunday, I merely wish to state to you that I shall forward at Mr O’Connor’s request your nomination to act for Messrs Palmer and Co. as well as their Letter to him with copies of the Accounts inclosed or any other Papers you may judge necessary to send to Hobart but I have no doubt I shall be able to wait on you on Friday morning.
There are two or three small claims that fall within the verge(?) of the Governor’s Courts(? bounds?).
(p2) If you will sanction me I will endeavour
        to intimidate them a little.*
                                         I have the Honor to be Sir
                                         Your most obedient & Humble Servant
                                         J.T.  Bell
Sydney 24 January 1816
*Mr L.  Butler about £40
Francis Williams & __        £30
Mr Purcells              £30
Mr Gore Esq           £31.00
Mr Bowden    about £50
(Addressed to) J. T.  Campbell Esq.  ~  ~  ~

The above letter, written by James Thompson Bell, asked the Colonial Secretary, John Thomas Campbell for his nomination for Bell to act (in Sydney) for the company Messrs Palmer (& Co.). of Calcutta, on behalf of their agent in Hobart, John Richard O’Connor. He also asked permission from the Colonial Secretary to “intimidate” the debtors named, including Laurence who owed ‘about £40’. Another Colonial Sec. record in June 1815 has: “Calicoes consigned to J R O'Connor on "Britannia" by Messrs Palmer and Company”. [15]  So this would indicate that Messrs Palmer and Co. supplied much of Laurence’s merchandise such as materials, haberdashery etc. and that Laurence was in debt to the company and reluctant to pay the bill.
Notably, the others named were well-to-do and influential Colonists- ie. William Gore (Provost Marshal); Francis Williams (one time merchant partner of Simeon Lord, magistrate and Commissioner for superintending public highway construction and repairs, accountant then cashier of Bank of NSW); William aliasThomas Bowden (founder of the Methodist Church in Australia, plus the Philanthropic Society, the Sunday School Institute, the Bible Society 1814-16, and Master of the Male Orphan School 1819-25); and John Purcell (one time Commandant at Newcastle Penal Colony 1810-1811, landowner).

© B. A. Butler

Contact email address:  butler1802  (NB. no spaces)

Link back to Introduction:

Links to all the chapters in this blog:

The 1798 rebellion
Laurence Butler's trial for his role in the Rebellion
Analysis of Butler's trial
Laurence Butler at the Battle of Tubberneering
Laurence Butler's imprisonment
Butler's life and family in Wexford
Laurence Butler's transportation to Sydney in 1802 on the Atlas 2
Conditions on Convict Ships
Life as a convict in Sydney
Laurence Butler's property investments in Pitt Street Sydney
Sydney Town in 1800-1810
Laurence Butler's petitions to the Governor
Laurence Butler's 100 acre land grant in District of Petersham
Butler's membership of the Commercial Society of Sydney
Laurence Butler's court cases
Laurence Butler's business interests in Sydney
Laurence Butler's cabinet making business
Laurence Butler's property investments in Sydney
Laurence Butler's colonial family
Laurence Butler's death in 1820
Laurence Butler's issue- Walter, Lawrence Junior and Mary Ann
The Catholic Community of Sydney up until 1820
Genealogy- Butler's possible ancestry and possible descendants in Ireland, and BDM records
Butler's fellow Irish rebels transported to Sydney
Conclusion about the life of Laurence Butler

[1] HRA, Series 1, Vol X, p21
[2] HRA, Series 1, Vol IX, p557; Despatch 101, 12 december 1817
[3] HRA, Series 1, Vol X, p18; Despatch 2 of 1819, 1 March 1819
[4] HRA, Series 1, Vol X, p196
[5] HRA, Series 1, Vol X, p20 ; Despatch 2 of 1819
[6] Sydney Gazette, 17 May 1817
[7] Sydney Gazette, 4 June 1809
[8]   Carol J. Baxter (Ed), General Muster of New South Wales 1814, ABGR (SAG), Sydney, 1987;  P. Mayberry, Irish Convicts to NSW,
[9]  Sydney Gazette, 5 Sept 1814
[10]  Sydney Gazette, 10 May, 1817
[11]  Sydney Gazette, 14 Jan, 1815
[12] Rowland Hassall Account Book 1811-1819, 11 Feb 1815, Payment to Laurence Butler,  Mitchell Library (A861-A864); as quoted in J. Hawkins, The Art of the Cabinet-Maker from the first settlement 1788 to 1820’- Part 2, pp52-53 and Ref p54, article from The Australian Antique Collector, June-Dec 1983. (NB have been unable to find this entry to date)
[13] Sydney Gazette, 9 November 1816
[14]  SRNSW: Colonial Secretary; [ 4/1736, pp 47,48,48a]; Butler, L; 1816 Jan 24; re claim against for debt; Reel 6046
[15]  SRNSW: Colonial Secretary; [4/1733, pp141-3]; John Richard O’Connor; 2 June 1815; Reel 6045. Also [4/433, pp46-8]; 2 May 1814; Fiche 3261