PEEL, Thomas (c. 1795-1864)

PEEL, Thomas (c. 1795-1864)
was a second cousin of Sir Robert Peel and was born probably towards the end of the eighteenth century. In 1828 with three others he formed an association to found a colony at Swan River, by sending 10,000 settlers there with stock and necessary materials. They asked that a grant of 4,000,000 acres should be made to them. The government would not agree to this, but proposed to limit the grant to 1,000,000 acres on certain specified conditions. Early in 1829 all the members of the association withdrew except Peel. Fresh conditions were made, the final arrangement being that if Peel landed 400 settlers before 1 November 1829 he was to receive 250,000 acres. If the conditions were fulfilled further grants would be made. He arrived in Western Australia in December with 300 settlers, and as he had not fulfilled the conditions found his grant was no longer reserved for him. The land eventually granted, 250,000 acres, extended from Cockburn Sound to the Murray River, but Peel had little organizing ability and was soon in difficulties. Within less than two years he had spent £50,000, some of his settlers had deserted him, and he eventually discharged all but a few from their indentures. In September 1834 a large grant of land was made to Peel, but he had little success in developing it. He died at Mandurah in 1864 in comparatively poor circumstances.
Peel was doomed to failure from the start. If he had begun in a very much smaller way it might have been possible to develop his venture into a comparative success. But the amount of really first class land near Perth was not large, and capable men like the Henty (q.v.) brothers, who obtained a grant of land at Swan River in 1829, soon decided to cut their losses and start again in Tasmania and the Port Phillip district. It took many years to discover what was possible in Western Australia, and progress was slow for a long period.
R. C. Mills, The Colonization of Australia; J. S. Battye, Western Australia, a History; F. C. Irwin, The State and Position of Western Australia, chapter III. See also The Story of the Rockingham by Cygnet, Swan River Booklets No. 9.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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