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Queensland documents
Letters Patent erecting Colony of Queensland 6 June 1859 (UK)
Letters Patent erecting Colony of Queensland 6 June 1859 (UK), p1
Letters Patent erecting Colony of Queensland 6 June 1859 (UK), p2
Letters Patent erecting Colony of Queensland 6 June 1859 (UK), p3
This document was authorised by Queen Victoria on 6 June 1859, now celebrated each year as Queensland Day. The Letters Patent of 1859 and the Order-in-Council are Queensland's primary founding documents.

The legal instrument for the separation of the new colony from New South Wales and the appointment of the first Governor, this document is still 'live', the constitutional basis for Queensland today.
British settlers arrived in the region that became Queensland in the 1820s, first to a convict settlement at Moreton Bay (Brisbane) from 1824 and as free settlers from 1842. Public meetings requesting independence for what was then the Northern Districts of New South Wales were held in Brisbane from 1851.

The New South Wales Constitution Act 1842, provided for the creation of a seprarate colony or colonies from any territory then part of New South Wales, through Letters Patent issued by the Queen in Council. This power was preserved in the New South Wales Constitution Act 1855 and these Letters Patent were so authorised on 6 June 1859.

A despatch from the Secretary of State in London on 11 October 1859, stated that 'no separation is to take place until the Letters Patent have been published in New South Wales and Queensland'. The Letters Patent appeared in the New South Wales Government Gazette on 29 November 1859 and in the first issue of the Queensland Government Gazette on 10 December 1859, the day the new Governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, arrived in Brisbane and proclaimed the new colony.

The boundaries of the new colony excised from north-eastern New South Wales in 1859 are not the same as the present state border. In 1859 the western boundary of Queensland was the eastern border of South Australia at 141 degrees east longitude. This was extended by Letters Patent in 1862. The extension of the northern boundaries by Letters Patent was enacted in the Queensland Coast Islands Act 1879 (see boundaries maps).


Bernays, CA, Queensland Politics During Sixty (1859–1919) Years, Govt. Printer, Brisbane, 1919.

Joyce, RB, 'George Ferguson Bowen and Robert George Wyndham Herbert: the imported openers', in DJ Murphy and RB Joyce (eds), Queensland Political Portraits, 1859–1959, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1978.

Knox, Bruce (ed.), The Queensland Years of Robert Herbert, Premier: Letters and Papers, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1977.

The Letters Patent was located in the National Archives, United Kingdom after a long search for the document brought to Brisbane by Governor Bowen in 1859. This search started in the Queensland State Archives, where the covering letter is held in the volumes of Original Despatches from the Secretary of State, in Volume 1, pages 1-3. The collection of the Queensland Parliamentary Archives and other collections in the Queensland Parliament were also searched without success. Researchers also looked unsuccessfully in the records of the Executive Council, and those in Government House. At the suggestion of Ms SJ Webbe, then Clerk to the Executive Council, a search was made in the State Records Office of New South Wales. An opinion was then sought from Dr Glyn Davis, Director-General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Queensland, who advised on 20 July 1999:
The Letters Patent was issued by Queen Victoria under the provisions of an Imperial Act and was addressed to Sir George Ferguson Bowen (as an individual and not Governor of Queensland). The Letters, amongst other things, established the separate Colony of Queensland and appointed Bowen to be Governor. In other words, the original of the document was Bowen's Commission and, as such, Bowen was entitled to treat the document as his personal property. This is the situation with all Letters Patent – they are the property of the persons to whom they are addressed. This is undoubtedly what occurred and, if the document exists today, it is most likely contained in Bowen's papers. An authenticated copy of the Letters Patent was forwarded, for publication purposes, to Queensland by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, London, on 12 August 1859.
The Bowen family has presented to Queensland Bowen's 'Instructions' (37 handwritten pages), now held at Government House in Brisbane. A copy is in the collection of the Queensland State Archives. The original Letters Patent sent to the Governor has not been located. The four-page published version of the Letters Patent 6 June 1859 appeared in the first Queensland Government Gazette on 10 December 1859.

Detail from Letters Patent erecting Colony of Queensland 6 June 1859 (UK).

Detail from Letters Patent erecting Colony of Queensland 6 June 1859 (UK).

Long Title:Letters Patent erecting Colony of Queensland 6 June 1859 (UK)
No. of pages:5
Medium:Parchment, with stitching material
Measurements:This document comprises two pieces, sewn with others into a long strip. The individual pieces have not yet been measured.
Provenance:Issued by Queen Victoria in Council
Features:The pages of this document are parchment 'webs' sewn into one long strip with other Letters Patent and rolled for storage.
Location & Copyright:National Archives of the United Kingdom
Reference:C66/5004 No. 21