Owing to the multiplicity of pressing business necessary to be performed immediately after landing, it was found impossible to read the public commissions and take possession of the colony in form, until the 7th of February. On that day all the officers of guard took post in the marine battalion, which was drawn up, and marched off the parade with music playing, and colours flying, to an adjoining ground, which had been cleared for the occasion, whereon the convicts were assembled to hear His Majesty’s commission read, appointing his Excellency Arthur Phillip, Esq. Governor and Captain General in and over the territory of New South Wales, and its dependencies; together with the Act of Parliament for establishing trials by law within the same; and the patents under the Great Seal of Great Britain, for holding the civil and criminal courts of judicature, by which all cases of life and death, as well as matters of property, were to be decided. When the Judge Advocate had finished reading, his Excellency addressed himself to the convicts in a pointed and judicious speech, informing them of his future intentions, which were, invariably to cherish and render happy those who shewed a disposition to amendment; and to let the rigour of the law take its course against such as might dare to transgress the bounds prescribed. At the close three vollies were fired in honour of the occasion, and the battalion marched back to their parade, where they were reviewed by the Governor, who was received with all the honours due to his rank. His Excellency was afterwards pleased to thank them, in public orders, for their behaviour from the time of their embarkation; and to ask the officers to partake of a cold collation at which it is scarce necessary to observe, that many loyal and public toasts were drank in commemoration of the day.
In the Governor’s commission, the extent of this authority is defined to reach from the latitude of 43 deg 49 min south, to the latitude of 10 deg 37 min south, being the northern and southern extremities of the continent of New Holland. It commences again at 135th degree of longitude east of Greenwich, and, proceeding in an easterly direction, includes all islands within the limits of the above specified latitudes in the Pacific Ocean. By this partition it may be fairly presumed, that every source of future litigation between the Dutch and us will be for ever cut off, as the discoveries of English navigators alone are comprized in this territory.
Nor have Government been more backward in arming Mr. Phillip with plenitude of power, than extent of dominion. No mention is made of a Council to be appointed, so that he is left to act entirely from his own judgment. And as no stated time of assembling the Courts of justice is pointed out, similar to the assizes and gaol deliveries of England, the duration of imprisonment is altogether in his hands. The power of summoning General Courts Martial to meet he is also invested with, but the insertion in the marine mutiny act, of a smaller number of officers than thirteen being able to compose such a tribunal, has been neglected: so that a Military court, should detachments be made from headquarters, or sickness prevail, may not always be found practicable to be obtained, unless the number of officers, at present in the Settlement, shall be increased.