07 December 2015

Benjamin Franklin's plans to colonise New Zealand

'On 13 July 1771 the Endeavour was back in England [from Cook's first expedition to New Zealand], and within six weeks a plan for planting a colony in New Zealand was hatched by American Benjamin Franklin and Scots-born Alexander Dalrymple. Franklin had been in England since 1764, returning 11 years later to the United States, where he helped draft the Declaration of Independence; Dalrymple was a hydrographer who had been passed over in favour of Cook for command of the Endeavour. No doubt thanks to information that came back with that expedition, these aspiring colonisers could advise that New Zealand was inhabited by 'a brave and generous race', but one that was without corn, fowls and 'all quadrupeds, except dogs'. As outlined in their 'Plan for Benefiting Distant Unprovided Countries', Franklin and Dalrymple proposed to take such benefits of modern civilisation to those remote regions, and bring back plants that might be usefully cultivated at home.

Perhaps to compensate for his earlier disappointment, Dalrymple intended to command the three-year expedition, which would involve 60 men and require an outlay of some £15,000 to be raised by subscription. Out of duty to share Britain's bounty, the plan suggested that 'Providence ... seem[ed] to call on us to do something ourselves for the common interest of humanity'. But funds were not forthcoming, so the scheme did not go ahead'.

- Richard Wolfe, A Society of Gentlemen: the Untold Story of the First New Zealand Company, Auckland, 2007, p.14-5.

See also:
History: Wellington anniversary day 1850, 22 January 2015
HistoryA cure for scurvy, 16 June 2013
HistoryShipping in Wellington 1850-70, 12 June 2009
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