The first Immigration Agent in Sydney was James Pinnock who was appointed on 23 July 1838. (1) Pinnock arrived from England where he had worked with the London Emigration Committee in 1831 and in January 1835 was appointed emigration agent in London. As Agent, Pinnock was paid by the colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land to select and organise for suitable emigrants to be sent to the colonies.
In April 1837, Thomas Frederick Elliot was appointed to the newly created position in Britain of Agent-General for Emigration and became responsible for much of the work Pinnock was undertaking. In 1838, Pinnock was removed as Emigration Agent in London because he was "carrying out on behalf of the colonies duties that were now expressly reserved for the Agent-General for Emigration" and was appointed Agent for Immigration in New South Wales. (2) Pinnock arrived in Sydney on 1 July 1838 and began his duties a few weeks later. (3) An Agent in Sydney would be a "medium of Communication between the Settlers and the Emigrants on their arrival, as well as of correspondence with the Agent in England". (4)
Although free settlers were encouraged with land grants, free passage and other incentives to migrate to the penal colony of New South Wales during the first thirty years of its existence, few took up the offer. During the 1820s, the number of immigrants increased as settlement spread and the proportion of emancipists and native-born increased. With increasing prosperity came a growing demand for skilled labour, and the Government responded to this need (and to the problem of a greater numerical inequality between the sexes) by introducing a number of assisted immigration schemes from 1832 onwards. (5)
Two systems of assisted immigration to New South Wales operated at various times throughout the 1800s. The Bounty system was controlled in the colonies and involved the payment of part of the cost of passage by the Government to settlers who organised agents to select and send emigrants, usually from the United Kingdom, to the colonies. The Government system also assisted with the cost of passage and worked under regulations determined by colonial needs, but was administered in England. (6) Pinnock was a strong supporter of the Bounty system and was accused by the Land and Emigration Commission of making "false statements intended to foster the bounty system in which ‘large pecuniary interests are involved’". (7)
The Immigration Agent in Sydney supervised shipping arrangements, and ensured proper provision was made for the safety, comfort, and health of passengers during their voyage. The Agent provided information to emigrants, private individuals, institutions and parishes about the facilities existing for assisted emigration to New South Wales. The Agent also attempted to prevent frauds being practised on "the poorer class of emigrants who had been unscrupulously exploited by many of the shipowners". (8)
Pinnock was replaced as Immigration Agent by Francis Merewether from 1 August 1841 after being criticised by the Land and Emigration Commissioners based in England.(9) From January 1842, Merewether also held the position of Clerk of the Executive Council without additional pay until 1846. (10) When Merewether was appointed Clerk of the Executive Council, the Governor, on the recommendation of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, proposed to replace him as Immigration Agent with a Royal Naval surgeon by the name of Dr Hampton. (11) For whatever reason, Merewether was not replaced at this time and continued for almost another ten years.
On 10 June 1851, Francis Merewether was appointed Post Master General and was replaced as Immigration Agent by Hutchinson H Browne. (12) Browne occupied the position for the next decade and was replaced by George Wise on 1 November 1862. Wise remained in the position until 1891. (13) From 1891, the position of Immigration Agent was renamed the Officer in Charge of Immigration and Frank J Josephson held the position until March or June of 1895 when replaced by J.A Brodie. (14)
Under an administrative arrangement of 4 December 1896, the Chief Secretary was charged with business connected with immigration and the position of Immigration Agent appears to have been abolished. (15)
1. Returns of the Colony, 1838; The appointment was officially published in the NSW Government Gazette (No.349), 8 August 1838, p.599.
2. Madgwick, R. B., Immigration into Eastern Australia 1788-1851, Sydney University Press, Sydney, p.126.
3. Report from the Committee on Immigration with the Minutes of Evidence and Replies to Circular Letter, Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council, 1838, p.879; Historical Records of Australia (HRA), Series 1, vol. 19, p.205 and p.513.
4. HRA, Series 1, vol. 19, p.203.
5. Concise Guide to the State Archives of NSW, entry for Immigration.
6. Madgwick, op. cit., p.170.
7. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Melbourne University Press, 1977, vol. 2, p.334.
8. Madgwick, op. cit., p.126.
9. NSW Government Gazette (No.61), 30 July 1841, p.1015; Returns of the Colony, 1841; HRA, Series 1, vol. 25, p.17; HRA, Series 1, vol. 21, p.220; Pinnock was transferred to Melbourne where he became deputy registrar of the Supreme Court.
10. HRA, Series 1, vol. 25, p.18 and p.178.
11. HRA, Series 1, vol. 21, p.623.
12. Browne was appointed Water Police Magistrate for Sydney when the office was established in 1840. When the office was discontinued at the end of 1843, Browne was appointed Registrar of the Court of Requests in Sydney and re-appointed to his previous position of Water Police Magistrate in 1847. HRA, Series 1, vol. 25, p.317.
13. Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Assisted Immigration, Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council, 1879-80, vol. 5, p.727.
14. Agent’s report on ships 1883-1896, State Records ref. [4/4628].
15. Supplement to the NSW Gazette, vol. 6, 4 December 1896, p.8773.