Promissory note to Captain Joseph James signed by G. Blaxcell for £250, and accompanying government document signed by Ellis Bent, Judge Advocate. Garnham BLAXCELL.
Promissory note to Captain Joseph James signed by G. Blaxcell for £250, and accompanying government document signed by Ellis Bent, Judge Advocate.

Promissory note to Captain Joseph James signed by G. Blaxcell for £250, and accompanying government document signed by Ellis Bent, Judge Advocate.
Promissory note to Captain Joseph James signed by G. Blaxcell for £250, and accompanying government document signed by Ellis Bent, Judge Advocate.

Sydney: 1812 & 1813.

Quarto, two-leaf document printed on one side of the first leaf and completed in manuscript, with manuscript promissory note on the second leaf; with another ms. note on a smaller separate sheet.

Early financial documents, predating the first Australian bank

A pair of rare early financial documents, relating to a debt incurred by Garnham Blaxcell to Captain Joseph James. The documents give an indication as to how chaotic the financial workings of the colony were before the establishment of the Bank of New South Wales in 1817. Not only was there no bank from which to apply for proper secured loans, but the coinage in circulation was of such an array - the most commonly used being the Spanish dollar - that it was necessary to stipulate the currency for repayment: "I promise to pay to Captain J. James, or order, the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds sterling in good Government Bills".

A pair of rare early financial documents, relating to a debt incurred by Garnham Blaxcell to Captain Joseph James. The documents give an indication as to how chaotic the financial workings of the colony were before the establishment of the Bank of New South Wales in 1817. Not only was there no bank from which to apply for proper secured loans, but the coinage in circulation was of such an array - the most commonly used being the Spanish dollar - that it was necessary to stipulate the currency for repayment: "I promise to pay to Captain J. James, or order, the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds sterling in good Government Bills".

The fact that the loan remained unpaid by 16 August 1813, some eleven months after it was due, is probably testimony to the financial straits in which Blaxcell often found himself, and which eventually led to his secret departure from Australia in 1817.

Blaxcell had arrived in Sydney in 1802, operating as a trader, then a magistrate, and for a time the colony's only auctioneer, eventually becoming one of Sydney's richest merchants, owning several properties in the town, as well as trading vessels. Macquarie awarded him the contract to build the General Hospital with d'Arcy Wentworth and Alexander Riley. He took an active part in the Bligh rebellion, and was one of the committee that examined the governor's papers after his arrest. During the interregnum he was appointed a magistrate. Over-ambitious ventures, however, led to his undoing. As early as 1809 unsuccessful speculation in trading had obliged him to assign his Drainwell estate to Surgeon Thomas Jamison. In 1810 he became further involved in debts to John Macarthur and other leading colonists, and by 1812 he was unable to meet liabilities for import duties.

In addition to the original manuscript promissory note, there is a notice of demand for repayment. This appears on a printed form prepared for use by the Judge Advocate, Ellis Bent, and his clerk James Foster. The printed form used here (on paper bearing an 1810 watermark) would have been prepared by George Howe, the colony's first printer. Any printing from this early period is of notable rarity.

Provenance: Private collection (Sydney).

Price (AUD): $4,250.00  other currencies Ref: #4504506

Condition Report