1793 Poor harvest causes hardship

Major Francis Grose

While Governor Phillip had insisted on equal rations for all in the new colony, his successor, Major Francis Grose, was less equitable. After a poor harvest in 1793, he cut the rations of convicts but not those of the New South Wales Corps. His land grants to officers of the Corps were intended to improve agricultural production, with the use of convicts as farm labour. Effectively, the Corps began to control the food supply, selling goods to the government store.

The relationship between civil and military personnel was sometimes problematic for the colony of New South Wales. The initial detachment of marines was replaced by the specially formed New South Wales Corps, and when Governor Phillip returned to England because of illness, the colony effectively came under military rule. Francis Grose, as commanding officer of the Corps, became Lieutenant-governor and was more concerned with the welfare of his troops than the well-being of convicts.

Initially, the colony had been dependent on public farming, which was of limited success. During Grose’s term of office, more land was granted to members of the Corps. Despite the poor harvest in 1793, the increase in small farms meant that by the end of 1794 the worst of the crisis was past.

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