Tasmania #88 (1899)

Tasmania #88 (1899)
Tasmania #88 (1899)
Tasmania #88 (1899)

The Colony of Tasmania was a British colony that existed on the island of Tasmania from 1856 until 1901, when it federated together with the five other Australian colonies to form the Commonwealth of Australia. It was originally named Anthony Van Diemen’s Land (Anthoonij van Diemenslandt in Dutch) by the explorer Abel Tasman who landed at Blackman’s Bay in 1642 and later flew the Dutch flag flown at North Bay. Tasmania was not known to be an island until Matthew Flinders and George Bass circumnavigated it in the Norfolk in 1798–99. It is located 150 miles (240 kilometers) to the south of the Australian mainland, separated by Bass Strait. The main island of Tasmania covers 24,911 square miles (64,519 km²), making it the 26th largest island in the world. The administrative capital was established at Hobart.

The island is believed to have been occupied by Aboriginals for 40,000 years before British colonization. It is thought Tasmanian Aboriginals were separated from the mainland Aboriginal groups about 10,000 years ago when the sea rose to form Bass Strait. The Aboriginal population was estimated to have been between 3,000 and 7,000 at the time of colonization, but was almost wiped out within 30 years by a combination of violent guerrilla conflict with settlers known as the “Black War”, intertribal conflict, and from the late 1820s, the spread of infectious diseases to which they had no immunity. The conflict, which peaked between 1825 and 1831 and led to more than three years of martial law, cost the lives of almost 1100 Aboriginals and settlers. The near-destruction of Tasmania’s Aboriginal population has been described by some historians as an act of genocide by the British.

The colony was created in 1803 as a penal settlement of the British Empire to prevent claims to the land by the First French Empire during the Napoleonic Wars; around 75,000 convicts were sent to Van Diemen’s Land before transportation ceased in 1853. The island was initially part of the Colony of New South Wales, but became a separate, self-governing colony under the name Van Diemen’s Land in 1825.

The Legislative Council of Van Diemen’s Land drafted a new constitution which they passed in 1854, and it was given Royal Assent by Queen Victoria in 1855. Later in that year, the Privy Council approved the colony changing its name from “Van Diemen’s Land” to “Tasmania”, and in 1856, the newly elected bicameral parliament of Tasmania sat for the first time, establishing Tasmania as a self-governing colony of the British Empire. Tasmania was often referred to as one of the “most British” colonies of the Empire.

The colony suffered from economic fluctuations, but for the most part was prosperous, experiencing steady growth. With few external threats and strong trade links with the Empire, the Colony of Tasmania enjoyed many fruitful periods in the late nineteenth century, becoming a world center of shipbuilding. It raised a local defense force which eventually played a significant role in the Second Boer War in South Africa, and Tasmanian soldiers in that conflict won the first two Victoria Crosses won by Australians. Tasmanians voted in favor of federation with the largest majority of all the Australian colonies, and on January 1, 1901, the Colony of Tasmania, became the Australian state of Tasmania.

The colony was named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who made the first reported European sighting of the island on November 24, 1642. Tasman named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt after his sponsor Anthony van Diemen, the Governor of the Dutch East Indies, who had sent Tasman on his voyage of discovery. The name was later shortened to Van Diemen’s Land by the British. It was officially renamed Tasmania in honor of its first European discoverer on January 1, 1856.

Tasmania was sometimes referred to as Dervon, as mentioned in the Jerilderie Letter written by the notorious Australian bushranger Ned Kelly in 1879. The colloquial expression for the state is Tassie. Tasmania is also colloquially shortened to Tas, especially when used in business names and website addresses. TAS is also the Australia Post abbreviation for the state.

The reconstructed Palawa kani language name for Tasmania is Lutriwita.

The island was adjoined to the mainland of Australia until the end of the last glacial period about 10,000 years ago. Much of the island is composed of Jurassic dolerite intrusions (upwellings of magma) through other rock types, sometimes forming large columnar joints. Tasmania has the world’s largest areas of dolerite, with many distinctive mountains and cliffs formed from this rock type. The central plateau and the southeast portions of the island are mostly dolerite. Mount Wellington above Hobart is a good example, showing distinct columns known as the Organ Pipes.

In the southern midlands as far south as Hobart, the dolerite is underlaid by sandstone and similar sedimentary stones. In the southwest, Precambrian quartzites were formed from very ancient sea sediments and form strikingly sharp ridges and ranges, such as Federation Peak or Frenchmans Cap.

In the northeast and east, continental granites can be seen, such as at Freycinet, similar to coastal granites on mainland Australia. In the northwest and west, mineral-rich volcanic rock can be seen at Mount Read near Rosebery, or at Mount Lyell near Queenstown. Also present in the south and northwest is limestone with caves.

The quartzite and dolerite areas in the higher mountains show evidence of glaciation, and much of Australia’s glaciated landscape is found on the Central Plateau and the Southwest. Cradle Mountain, another dolerite peak, for example, was a nunatak. The combination of these different rock types offers incredible scenery, much of it distinct from any other region of the world. In the far southwest corner of the state, the geology is almost completely quartzite, which gives the mountains the false impression of having snow-capped peaks year round.

Evidence indicates the presence of Aborigines in Tasmania about 40,000 years ago. Rising sea levels cut Tasmania off from mainland Australia about 10,000 years ago and by the time of European contact, the Aboriginal people in Tasmania had nine major nations, or ethnic groups. At the time of the British occupation and colonization in 1803 the indigenous population was estimated at between 3,000 and 10,000. Historian Lyndall Ryan’s analysis of population studies led her to conclude that there were about 7,000 spread throughout the island’s nine nations; Nicholas Clements, citing research by N.J.B. Plomley and Rhys Jones, settled on a figure of 3,000 to 4,000. They engaged in fire-stick farming, hunted game including kangaroo and wallabies, caught seals, mutton-birds, shellfish and fish and lived as nine separate “nations” on the island, which they knew as Trouwunna.

The first reported sighting of Tasmania by a European was on November 24, 1642, by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who landed at today’s Blackmans Bay. More than a century later, in 1772, a French expedition led by Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne also landed at Blackmans Bay, and the following year Tobias Furneaux became the first Englishman to land in Tasmania when he arrived at Adventure Bay. Captain James Cook landed at Adventure Bay in 1777. Between 1772 and 1798, only the southeastern portion of the island was visited.

Around 1784–85, Henri Peyroux de la Coudrenière, an army officer serving in Spanish Louisiana, wrote a “memoir on the advantages to be gained for the Spanish crown by the settlement of Van Dieman’s Land”. After receiving no response from the Spanish government, Peyroux proposed it to the French government, as “Mémoire sur les avantages qui résulteraient d’une colonie puissante à la terre de Diémen“.

In January 1793, a French expedition under the command of Antoine Raymond Joseph de Bruni d’Entrecasteaux anchored in Recherche Bay and a period of five weeks was spent in that area, carrying out explorations into both natural history and geography. Matthew Flinders and George Bass sailed through Bass Strait in 1798–99, determining for the first time that Tasmania was an island.

Sealers and whalers based themselves on Tasmania’s islands from 1798. In 1802 and 1803, a French expedition commanded by Nicolas Baudin explored D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Maria Island, and carried out charting of Bass Strait (Baudin had been associated, like Peyroux, with the resettlement of the Acadians from France to Louisiana).

In August 1803, New South Wales Governor Philip King sent Lieutenant John Bowen to establish a small military outpost on the eastern shore of the Derwent River in order to forestall any claims to the island by French explorers who had been exploring the southern Australian coastline. Bowen, who led a party of 49, including 21 male and three female convicts, named the camp Risdon. Several months later a second settlement was established by Captain David Collins, with 308 convicts, 3.1 miles (5 km) to the south in Sullivans Cove on the western side of the Derwent, where fresh water was more plentiful. The latter settlement became known as Hobart Town or Hobarton, later shortened to Hobart, after the British Colonial Secretary of the time, Lord Hobart. The settlement at Risdon was later abandoned. Left on their own without further supplies, the Sullivans Cove settlement suffered severe food shortages and by 1806 its inhabitants were starving, with many resorting to scraping seaweed off rocks and scavenging washed-up whale blubber from the shore to survive.

A smaller colony was established at Port Dalrymple on the Tamar River in the island’s north in October 1804 and several other convict-based settlements were established, including the particularly harsh penal colonies at Port Arthur in the southeast and Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast. Tasmania was eventually sent 65,000 convicts — four out of every ten people transported to Australia. Until the 1853 abolition of penal transportation (known simply as “transportation”), Van Diemen’s Land was the primary penal colony in Australia. Following the suspension of transportation to New South Wales, all transported convicts were sent to Van Diemen’s Land. In total, some 75,000 convicts were transported to Van Diemen’s Land, or about 40% of all convicts sent to Australia.

Male convicts served their sentences as assigned labor to free settlers or in gangs assigned to public works. Only the most difficult convicts (mostly re-offenders) were sent to the Tasman Peninsula prison known as Port Arthur. Female convicts were assigned as servants in free settler households or sent to a female factory (women’s workhouse prison). There were five female factories in Van Diemen’s Land.

Convicts completing their sentences or earning their ticket-of-leave often promptly left Van Diemen’s Land. Many settled in the new free colony of Victoria, to the dismay of the free settlers in towns such as Melbourne.

Internally, there was little post before 1816 when a government messenger carried mail fortnightly between Hobart and Port Dalrymple (Launceston). The land conditions were such that the 120-mile journey took seven days. Mail for overseas was also infrequent and no regular service existed, even to Sydney which was responsible for the administration of the island.

By 1819, the Aboriginal and British population reached parity with about 5000 of each, although among the colonists men outnumbered women four to one. Wealthy middle-class free settlers began arriving in large numbers from 1820, lured by the promise of land grants and free convict labor.

In September 1822, the first postal town markings appeared. These were the earliest markings in Australia. Settlement in the island’s northwest corner was monopolized by the Van Diemen’s Land Company, which sent its first surveyors to the district in 1826. By 1830, one-third of Australia’s non-Indigenous population lived in Van Diemen’s Land and the island accounted for about half of all land under cultivation and exports.

Tensions between Tasmania’s black and white inhabitants rose, partly driven by increasing competition for kangaroo and other game. Explorer and naval officer John Oxley in 1810 noted the “many atrocious cruelties” inflicted on Aboriginals by convict bushrangers in the north, which in turn led to black attacks on solitary white hunters. Hostilities increased further with the arrival of 600 colonists from Norfolk Island between 1807 and 1813. They established farms along the River Derwent and east and west of Launceston, occupying 10 percent of Van Diemen’s Land. By 1824, the colonial population had swelled to 12,600, while the island’s sheep population had reached 200,000. The rapid colonization transformed traditional kangaroo hunting grounds into farms with grazing livestock as well as fences, hedges and stone walls, while police and military patrols were increased to control the convict farm laborers.

Violence began to spiral rapidly from the mid-1820s in what became known as the “Black War”. While black inhabitants were driven to desperation by dwindling food supplies as well as anger at the prevalence of abductions of women and girls, whites carried out attacks as a means of exacting revenge and suppressing the native threat. Van Diemen’s Land had an enormous gender imbalance, with male colonists outnumbering females six to one in 1822 — and 16 to one among the convict population. Historian Nicholas Clements has suggested the “voracious appetite” for native women was the most important trigger for the explosion of violence from the late 1820s.

Major-General Ralph Darling was appointed Governor of New South Wales in 1825, and in the same year he visited Hobart Town. On December 3, Darling proclaimed the establishment of the independent colony of which he actually became governor for three days. Van Diemen’s Land — which thus far had existed as a territory within the colony of New South Wales — was proclaimed a separate colony, with its own judicial establishment and Legislative Council. The demonym for Van Diemen’s Land was “Van Diemonian”, though contemporaries used the spelling Vandemonian.

From 1825 to 1828 the number of native attacks more than doubled each year, raising panic among settlers. Over the summer of 1826–7 clans from the Big River, Oyster Bay and North Midlands nations speared stock-keepers on farms and made it clear that they wanted the settlers and their sheep and cattle to move from their kangaroo hunting grounds. Settlers responded vigorously, resulting in many mass-killings. In November 1826 Governor George Arthur issued a government notice declaring that colonists were free to kill Aborigines when they attacked settlers or their property and in the following eight months more than 200 Aborigines were killed in the Settled Districts in reprisal for the deaths of 15 colonists. After another eight months the death toll had risen to 43 colonists and probably 350 Aboriginals. Almost 300 British troops were sent into the Settled Districts, and in November 1828 Arthur declared martial law, giving soldiers the right to shoot on sight any Aboriginal in the Settled Districts. Martial law would remain in force for more than three years, the longest period of martial law in Australian history.

Map of Van Diemen's Land, 1828
Map of Van Diemen’s Land, 1828

In 1828, a new Act was passed to establish a regular postal service in the island. However, no attempt was made to implement this until 1832, when a principal postmaster was appointed. In 1824,  there were nine post offices and 26 by 1833. By 1835, deliveries were made weekly throughout the island by mail cart and stage-coach and, 15 years later, the system of deliveries had been established on a weekly or, in some cases, twice weekly basis.

On August 6, 1829, the brig Cyprus, a government-owned vessel used to transport goods, people, and convicts, set sail from Hobart Town for Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on a routine voyage carrying supplies and convicts. While the ship was becalmed in Recherche Bay, convicts allowed on deck attacked their guards and took control of the brig. The mutineers marooned officers, soldiers, and convicts who did not join the mutiny without supplies. The convicts then sailed the Cyprus to Canton, China, where they scuttled her and claimed to be castaways from another vessel. On the way, Cyprus visited Japan during the height of the period of severe Japanese restrictions on the entry of foreigners, the first Australian ship to do so.

In November 1830 Arthur organized the so-called “Black Line”, ordering every able-bodied male colonist to assemble at one of seven designated places in the Settled Districts to join a massive drive to sweep Aboriginals out of the region and on to the Tasman Peninsula. The campaign failed and was abandoned seven weeks later, but by then Tasmania’s Aboriginal population had fallen to about 300.

After hostilities between settlers and Aboriginals ceased in 1832, almost all of the remnants of the indigenous population were persuaded or forced by government agent George Augustus Robinson to relocate to Flinders Island. Many quickly succumbed to infectious diseases to which they had no immunity, reducing the population further. Of those removed from Tasmania, the last to die was Truganini, in 1876. The near-destruction of Tasmania’s Aboriginal population has been described as an act of genocide by historians including Robert Hughes, James Boyce, Lyndall Ryan and Tom Lawson. Boyce has claimed that the April 1828 “Proclamation Separating the Aborigines from the White Inhabitants” sanctioned force against Aboriginals “for no other reason than that they were Aboriginal” and described the decision to remove all Tasmanian Aborigines after 1832 — by which time they had given up their fight against white colonists — as an extreme policy position. He concluded: “The colonial government from 1832 to 1838 ethnically cleansed the western half of Van Diemen’s Land and then callously left the exiled people to their fate.”

A campaign for self-government in Van Diemen’s Land had first begun in 1842. A growing resentment against penal transportation to the colony, and a lack of effective legislation led to agitators lobbying for better representation. On October 31, 1845, the ‘Patriotic six’ walked out of the Legislative Council, leaving it without a quorum, but by March 23, 1847, they had been restored.

In 1849, the Reverend John West formed the Anti-Transportation League of Van Diemen’s Land in Launceston to politically oppose the penal transportation of British convicts to Van Diemen’s Land which had been occurring since 1804. By 1851, it had expanded to other colonies including New South Wales and Victoria and soon expanded to become the Australasian Anti-Transportation League. The Australian Republican Association (ARA) was also founded at this time, but failed to gain much support.

On August 5, 1850, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Australian Constitutions Act, granting the right of legislative power to the Australian colonies, and called for a ‘Blended’ Council, which was to be part nominated and part elected.

In the first partial-election of the Legislative Council of Van Diemen’s Land on October 21. 1851, members of the Australasian Anti-Transportation League won all 16 of the elected seats, showing how popular the movement had become, and how opposed to transportation the free population of Van Diemen’s Land was. One of the first actions taken by the new Council was to vote 16 to 4 in favour of sending a letter of request to Queen Victoria asking for her to revoke the Order in Council permitting transportation to Van Diemen’s Land and Norfolk Island, despite the opposition of Lieutenant Governor William Denison.

Map of Van Diemen's Land, 1852
Map of Van Diemen’s Land, 1852

Tensions sometimes ran high between the settlers and the Vandemonians. The beginning of the Victorian gold rush provided further argument, as it was felt that the opportunity of free passage aboard convict transports and the change of escaping to the gold fields would provide an incentive to would-be offenders. Complaints from Victorians about recently released convicts from Van Diemen’s Land re-offending in Victoria was one of the contributing reasons for the eventual abolition of transportation to Van Diemen’s Land in 1853. The last convict ship to be sent from England, the St. Vincent, arrived that year, and on August 10, 1853, Jubilee festivals in Hobart and Launceston celebrated 50 years of European settlement with the official end of transportation. Celebratory medallions were minted and distributed to school children.

The first stamps of Van Diemen’s Land were a 1 penny blue and a 4 pence red orange released on November `1, 1854, each bearing a portrait of Queen Victoria facing to the right on unwatermarked paper (Tasmania Scott #1-2). They were engraved by C.W. Coard and recess printed by H. and C. Best at the Courier newspaper in Hobart. The imperforate stamps had twenty-four varieties of each, printed in six rows of four each. The 1 penny denomination are found on medium soft yellowish paper with all lines clear and distinct, as well as thin hard white paper with lines of the engraving blurred and worn. The 4 pence stamps are known from two plates with the first state of Plate I being finely engraved with brilliant colors. It is also seen on vertically laid paper from proof sheets. Reprints were later made of these stamps —in 1879, 1887 and 1889 — from defaced plates. All three plates were destroyed in July 1950.

On August 19, 1853, the Legislative Council appointed a select committee to draft a constitution, which was passed by the Council on October 31, 1854. By January 1855, the first Governor of Tasmania, Sir Henry Fox Young had been appointed. The constitution, calling for a new bicameral parliament received Royal Assent from Queen Victoria on May 1, 1855. On July 21, the Privy Council granted the application to change the colony’s name from “Van Diemen’s Land” to “Tasmania”, partly to differentiate the burgeoning society of free settlers from the island’s convict past. This removed the unsavory criminal connotations with the name Van Diemen’s Land (and the “demon” connotation), while honoring Abel Tasman, the first European to find the island. On October 24, 1855, a tumultuous crowd gathered in Hobart to hear that the Tasmanian Constitution Act had been granted Royal Assent.

A second issue of stamps inscribed VAN DIEMEN’S LAND had already been ordered from Perkins Bacon & Co. Ltd. in London — engraved by W. Humphreys after a watercolor sketch by E. Corbould of the Charon portrait of Queen Victoria. The first of these — the 4 pence deep blue — was released on August 17, 1855, with a 1 penny dark carmine and 2 pence green following on September 16, all printed on wove paper with a large star watermark and issued imperforate (Scott #4-6). A 6 pence violet was printed on proof sheets with this watermark but not released. These were later printed by H. C. Best in Hobart using the Perkins Bacon plates on thin white unwatermarked paper: 1 penny pale red in April 1856 (Scott #7), 2 pence emerald in January 1857 (Scott #8) and 4 pence blue in May 1857 (Scott #9). The 1 penny was also released on very thin Perlure paper in red brown in November 1856 (Scott #10). Finally, H. Best printed each of the three denominations at the Courier offices in August 1857 on paper watermarked with a 12, or as appropriate to the value (Scott #11-13). A number of color shades exist for these final Van Diemen’s Land stamps.

On February 8, 1856, the old Legislative Council met for the last time, and between September and October, elections were held across the state for the new Tasmanian Legislative Council, and Tasmanian House of Assembly. On November 1, 1856, Governor Sir Henry Fox Young proclaimed former British Army officer, William Champ as the first Premier of Tasmania, and the new bicameral parliament met for the first time on December 2,marking the beginning of self-government for the Colony of Tasmania.

The first stamps inscribed TASMANIA were recess printed by Perkins Bacon & Co. Ltd. and finally ready for release in January 1858. The designs are similar to the last issues of Van Diemen’s Land utilizing the same Charon portrait of Queen Victoria. The 6 pence exists in gray lilac or blue gray with a watermarked double-lined numeral 6 while the 1 shilling was printed in vermilion with a 12 watermark (Scott #14-16). These were all issued imperforate.

From October 1, 1857, the Tasmanian Post Office only supplied purchasers requiring five or more complete sheets of stamps. The public obtained their stamp requirements, at face value, from licensed stamp vendors, who obtained their stocks at a discount from the Post Office. From 1863 onwards, a number of the stamp vendors supplied their own roulettes or perforations. The Hobart firm of J. Walch & Sons achieved this so successfully that they were given an official contract in July 1869 to perforate sheets for the Post Office. The Government didn’t obtain their own perforating machine until late in 1871. The Scott catalogue list numerous unofficial perforations, including new prints of the previously-issued low value Van Diemen’s Land stamps in a variety of color shades between 1864 and 1868 (Scott #17-47A).

The era immediately following the granting of responsible self-government brought a new confidence to the colony. While Tasmania suffered a setback with a large loss of working-age males to the Victorian gold-fields, many social and cultural improvements soon developed. Horse-drawn buses between Hobart and New Town to the immediate north provide the colony’s first public transport in 1856. The following year the first telegraph line between Hobart and Launceston was laid, and coal gas became available for private use, and illuminating Hobart’s street lamps. Tasmania continued to be a center of shipbuilding excellence, however growing competition, and later, a shift towards steel-constructed vessels soon threatened Tasmania’s place as a world leader. The late 1850s also saw the Hobart Savings Bank and a Council of Education formed, and the new Government House opened.

The 1860s saw a period of stagnation and economic depression in Tasmania, but it was punctuated by several highlights, including the opening of the new Hobart General Post Office, and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, a submarine communications cable between Tasmania and Victoria, the beginning of construction for the Launceston and Western Railway, the colony’s first railway, and Tasmania’s first royal visit, by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Albert. Compulsory education was introduced in 1868, making Tasmania one of the first colonies in the British Empire to adopt such an enlightened policy.

A new design for Tasmanian stamps with a left-facing portrait of Queen Victoria, was released on November 1, 1870, in the form of a typographed 2 pence blue green on single-lined numeral watermarked paper and perforated 11½ (Scott #48). While printed locally in Hobart, the plates had been prepared by Thomas de la Rue & Co. Ltd. of London. Further denominations using this design followed until 1891 with a variety of perforation gauges and watermarks (Scott #49-73). Three of these were surcharged in 1889 (Scott #65) and 1891 (Scott #74-75). Additional releases occurred in 1902 (Scott #98) and 1905 (Scott #108-109).

The British Army had garrisoned Van Diemen’s Land with a rotating roster of British regiments since the first establishment of a colony there in 1803. In the wake of the Crimean War (1853–56) and the Indian Mutiny (1857), a Royal Commission was held under Secretary of State for War, Jonathan Peel into the structure of the Army. His proposed reforms met with objection from the East India Company, who wished to retain their own armed forces. However, a later Secretary for War, Edward Cardwell began a successful program of reforms known as the Cardwell reforms. Although he lost his post when his government was removed from office, a later replacement, Hugh Childers reinvigorated the process with the Childers reforms. One of Cardwell’s major proposals to increase troop numbers was the withdrawal of British garrisons from the self-governing colonies (to be replaced by locally raised units) which would save money and allow for more troops to be available for deployment in times of war, which he announced in 1869. By 1870, the troops were being withdrawn, and by 1871, more than 26,000 men had returned to Great Britain from all over the British Empire.

This meant that at short notice the Government of Tasmania was given the responsibility of raising its own defenses. At the time of the announcement, the 2nd Battalion, the 14th (Buckinghamshire, The Prince of Wales’s Own) Regiment of Foot was stationed in Tasmania. In March 1870, the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment arrived in Hobart from New Zealand to oversee the withdrawal of the Buckinghamshires, but by September 6, 1870, they were also departing, leaving the colony completely bereft of defense forces.

Although earlier attempts to establish locally raised volunteer defense forces had been made, such as the establishment of the Hobart Town Volunteer Artillery Company in 1859, and a similar company in Launceston in 1860, and twelve companies of “volunteer” infantry were also raised. In 1867, the infantry companies were disbanded, and the artillery increased by one battery, but most of these units were short-lived.

The arrival of three Imperial Russian Navy warships, the Africa, Plastun, and Vestnik in 1872 caused a great deal of alarm in the colony, and led to vigorous discussion about the colonies defenses. The threat of war with Russia in 1876 further hastened the establishment of both locally raised defense forces, and the modernization of coastal defenses, and in 1878 the Volunteer Act was passed, which established the Tasmanian Volunteer Force. The following year, controversial Canadian Priest Charles Chiniquy visited Hobart to lecture on religion, but his second lecture descended into rioting when Catholics broke into the Hobart Town Hall. It took 150 constables and 400 armed volunteers to break up the rioting in what became known as the ‘Chiniquy Affair’, and this added weight to the argument that the colony desperately needed a permanent military presence.

In 1878, the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment was raised in both the north and south of the colony. By 1880, a defense force of 600 men had been established, and consisted of 200 artillery, 350 infantry and about fifty mounted infantry. In 1883, the Tasmanian Engineers were formed, and trained as a torpedo boat crew for the newly acquired TB1. By 1885, the strength of the Tasmanian Military Forces was 1200 men, the maximum permitted by law at a time of peace. However, by 1893, and additional “auxiliary” force of 1500 had also been raised. By 1896, the Regiment had three battalions. They were 1st battalion in Hobart, 2nd battalion in Launceston, and 3rd battalion in the North West.

The Flag of Tasmania was officially adopted following a proclamation by Tasmanian colonial Governor Frederick Aloysius Weld on September 25, 1876, and was first published in the Tasmanian Gazette the same day. The governor’s proclamation here were three official flags, they being the Governor’s flag, the Tasmania Government vessel flag, and a Tasmania merchant flag. Up until 1856, when Tasmania was granted responsible self-government, the Union flag and the British ensign were primarily used on state occasions.

The last penal settlement in Tasmania at Port Arthur closed in 1877.

The population of the colony began to rise quite rapidly in the period immediately following the discovery of gold. In 1880, the colony’s population was 114, 762, but by 1884, it had reached 130,541. The period of growth also created a substantial improvement in the standard of living for Tasmanians. In the period from 1875 to 1884, the total value of personal saving in the colony’s five existing banks increased from £1,227,585, to £4,022,077 — nearly a fourfold increase. The total valuation of owned property also rose from £604,347 to £837,916.

On February 12, 1892, a new key-plate stamp design was first issued in Tasmania, typographed by Thomas de la Rue & Co. and perforated 14. These were the colony’s first bi-colored stamps. Ten denominations were issued between then and 1899 (Scott #76-85) with additional released in 1902 (Scott #99) and 1905 (Scott #110-111). The 5 pence pale blue and brown was surcharged 1½ pence in 1904 (Scott #100).

In 1899, the Colonial Tasmanian Military Forces responded to the request for military assistance in South Africa. The war had been expected in both Britain and the Australian colonies, and planning had begun as a result. The initial request from Britain was made for two of the colony’s three Ranger Infantry units. Colonel William Vincent Legge, the commander of the Colonial Tasmanian Military Forces, sought to also establish a mounted reconnaissance unit, and toured the colony. He was very impressed by the shooting and riding skills of many of the colony’s wealthy young farm boys, and formed a Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen unit from them.

A Tasmanian colonial contingent was sent to the Second Boer War, consisting of the 1st and 2nd Tasmanian Bushmen. These mounted infantry units were primarily made up of volunteers who had good bushcraft, riding and shooting skills. The first contingent, known as the First Tasmanian (Mounted Infantry) Contingent, consisted of approximately 80 men under the command of Captain Cyril St Clair Cameron. The Second contingent, known as the Second (Tasmanian Bushmen) Contingent, departed from Hobart on March 5, 1900, and were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel E.T Wallack. They arrived at Cape Town on March 31, and were sent to Beira, where they formed part of General Carrington’s column, operating in Rhodesia and Western Transvaal. A third Tasmanian contingent, the Third Tasmanian (Imperial Bushmen) Contingent, departed on April 26, and the Fourth Tasmanian (Imperial Bushmen) Contingent followed soon after. A branch of Tasmanian Special Service Officers also accompanied the Tasmanian contingents. In total, 28 officers and 822 other ranks were sent from the colony.

The first two Victoria Crosses awarded to Australians in that conflict were earned by Private John Hutton Bisdee and Lieutenant Guy George Egerton Wylly, both members of the Tasmanian Bushmen, in action near Warm Bad in 1900. On September 1, they were part of a small party consisting entirely of Tasmanians, who were escorting an Army Service Corps unit sent to round up cattle at Warmbaths, 60 miles north of Pretoria. They were ambushed by a Boer Commando, but fought exceptionally well. Bisdee and Wylly received their VCs for heroically recovering wounded and un-horsed men under fire from the enemy.

The first of Tasmania’s only pictorial stamp series was released in late 1899 (the 1 penny and 2 pence denominations both have earliest known usages in mid-December). The initial stamps, released through March 31, 1900, were engraved by L. Williams and recess printed by de la Rue, perforated 14 on paper watermarked with a diagonal TAS (Scott #86-93). Between January 1902 and February 1904, the three lowest denominations were lithographed using transfers of the de la Rue plates by the Victoria Government Printing Office in Melbourne in several perforation gauges (Scott #94-97). Between 1905 and 1908, there was a printing of these designs by the Victoria Government Printing Office typographed using electrotyped plates (Scott #102-107) and a redrawn issue in January 1911 by the Commonwealth Printing Branch in Melbourne using electrotyped plates (Scott #114-116). The final Tasmanian stamp issue was a 1 penny surcharge in red on the 2 pence bright violet stamp of this pictorial design issued in October 1912 (Scott #117).

lithographed version of the 2 pence View of Hobart (compare with #88 above)
lithographed version of the 2 pence View of Hobart (compare with #88 above)

The Colony of Tasmania and its citizens played a prominent role in the move towards federation for the six British colonies in Australia. Tasmanian lawyer and politician Andrew Inglis Clark had traveled throughout the United States of America in 1890, where he learned an appreciation of both the federal system of government, and grew to appreciate republicanism. He represented Tasmania at the 1890 Constitutional Convention where he presented a draft constitution that he had written on a previous trip to London. At the Constitutional Convention of 1891, by then the Attorney-General of Tasmania, Clark spoke as the leading authority on the American constitutional system, which was highly influential in the development of the bicameral system in Australia. Clark also spoke effectively of creating a federal system which provided for the protection of the smaller and more vulnerable economies of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. By 1891, Clark had completed his final draft constitution which he sent copies of to Alfred Deakin, Edmund Barton, and Thomas Playford, and although it was never intended to be a final version, 86 out of the original 128 sections from his draft made it into the final version of the Constitution of Australia.

In the 1898 constitutional referendum, 11,797 voted in favor of federation, and 2,716 opposed, a majority of nearly 4 to 1. Tasmania held their final constitutional referendum on June 27, 1899, and in that referendum to opposition vote had further reduced to 791, and with 13,437 voters in favor of federation, the Colony of Tasmania had provided the highest percentage of support shown in any of the Australian colonies. The six separate British self-governing colonies of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia agreed to unite and form the Commonwealth of Australia, establishing a system of federalism in Australia. Fiji and New Zealand were originally part of this process, but they decided not to join the federation.

Following federation, the six colonies that united to form the Commonwealth of Australia as states kept the systems of government (and the bicameral legislatures) that they had developed as separate colonies, but they also agreed to have a federal government that was responsible for matters concerning the whole nation. When the Constitution of Australia came into force, on January 1, 1901, the colonies collectively became states of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Scott #88 is a 2 pence violet stamp, issued sometime in late 1899. The earliest known postmark on this stamp is dated December 15, 1899. Engraved, it portrays a view of Hobart, the capital and most populous city of Tasmania. Hobart is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney, New South Wales. The modern history of Hobart dates to its foundation as a penal colony in 1804. Prior to British settlement, the area had been occupied for possibly as long as 35,000 years, by the semi-nomadic Mouheneener tribe, a sub-group of the Nuennone, or South-East tribe. The descendants of the indigenous Tasmanians now refer to themselves as Palawa.

The first European settlement in the area began in 1803 as a military camp at Risdon Cove on the eastern shores of the Derwent River, amid British concerns over the presence of French explorers. In 1804, along with the military, settlers and convicts from the abandoned Port Phillip settlement, the camp at Risdon Cove was moved by Captain David Collins to a better location at the present site of Hobart at Sullivans Cove. The city, initially known as Hobart Town or Hobarton, was named after Lord Hobart, the British secretary of state for war and the colonies.

The area’s indigenous inhabitants were members of the semi-nomadic Mouheneener tribe. Violent conflict with the European settlers, and the effects of diseases brought by them, dramatically reduced the aboriginal population, which was rapidly replaced by free settlers and the convict population. Charles Darwin visited Hobart Town in February 1836 as part of the Beagle expedition. He writes of Hobart and the Derwent estuary in his Voyage of the Beagle:

“…The lower parts of the hills which skirt the bay are cleared; and the bright yellow fields of corn, and dark green ones of potatoes, appear very luxuriant… I was chiefly struck with the comparative fewness of the large houses, either built or building. Hobart Town, from the census of 1835, contained 13,826 inhabitants, and the whole of Tasmania 36,505.

The Derwent River was one of Australia’s finest deepwater ports and was the center of the Southern Ocean whaling and sealing trades. The settlement rapidly grew into a major port, with allied industries such as shipbuilding.

Hobart Town became a city on August 21, 1842, and was renamed Hobart from the beginning of 1881.

Since its foundation as a colonial outpost, the city has grown from the mouth of Sullivans Cove to stretch in a generally north-south direction along both banks of the Derwent River, from 22 km inland from the estuary at Storm Bay to the point where the river reverts to fresh water at Bridgewater. Hobart has experienced both booms and busts over its history. The early 20th century saw a period of growth on the back of mining, agriculture and other primary industries, and the loss of men who served in world wars was counteracted by an influx of immigration after World War II. In the later years of the 20th century, migrants increasingly arrived to settle in Hobart from Asia. Despite the rise in migration from parts of the world other than the United Kingdom and Ireland, the population of Hobart remains predominantly ethnically Anglo-Celtic and has the highest percentage per capita of Australian born residents among the Australian capital cities.

In June 2015, the city had a greater area population of approximately 221,000. The city is located in the state’s south-east on the estuary of the Derwent River, making it the most southern of Australia’s capital cities. Its harbor forms the second-deepest natural port in the world after Rio de Janeiro. Its skyline is dominated by the 4,170-foot (1,271-meter) Mount Wellington and much of the city’s waterfront consists of reclaimed land. It is the financial and administrative heart of Tasmania, serving as the home port for both Australian and French Antarctic operations and acting as a major tourist hub, with over 1.192 million visitors in 2011/2012. The metropolitan area is often referred to as Greater Hobart, to differentiate it from the City of Hobart, one of the five local government areas that cover the city.

Flag of Van Diemen's Land (1850-1875 Unofficial Merchant's Ensign)
Flag of Van Diemen’s Land (1850-1875 Unofficial Merchant’s Ensign)
Flag of Tasmania, 1876-1901
Flag of Tasmania, 1876-1901

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