BUSBY, James (1801-1871)


BUSBY, James (1801-1871)
viticulturist and administrator
son of John Busby (q.v.), was born in Edinburgh on 7 February 1801. He was well educated, and had made a study of viticulture in France. He came to Australia with his father on 24 February 1824, obtained a grant of land, and before May 1825 was given a position at the male orphan school at Bull's Hill near Liverpool, his duties including the teaching of viticulture and the supervision of the institution's farm. His salary was £100 a year, with "one third of the gross increase of the stock and of the net profits of the soil". In 1825 his A Treatise on the Cultivation of the Vine was published at Sydney, one of the earliest volumes printed in Australia. It was based principally on the work of the Count de Chaptal, published at Paris in 1819, but Busby also used his own notes. When the orphan school was placed in charge of the trustees of the clergy and school lands in 1826 they terminated Busby's appointment, but he made various claims which were submitted to arbitration, and in March 1828 Governor Darling (q.v.) stated that after the payment of certain sums to him, there was a balance of over £1000 still due. He was made a member of the land board, and he also sat on other boards and showed himself to be a capable public servant. He had also been appointed collector of internal revenue, with the understanding that it was not to be considered a permanent position. Busby, however, was dissatisfied when he was superseded by William Macpherson, and on 10 January 1831 drew up a statement of his claims and went to London to bring his case before the colonial office. He had in the previous year published another volume at Sydney, A Manual of Plain Directions for Planting and Cultivating Vineyards.
In London Busby's intelligence and knowledge of colonial conditions evidently impressed the English officials, as in a dispatch dated 18 March 1832 Governor Bourke (q.v.) was advised that Busby had been appointed resident of New Zealand at a salary of £500 a year. While in Europe he had visited continental vineyards, and in 1834 another little volume was published at Sydney, Journal of a Recent Visit to the Principal Vineyards of Spain and France. He had collected a large number of vine cuttings which were sent to Sydney for propagation at the botanical gardens. This collection unfortunately was neglected and many of the vines were eventually destroyed. In New Zealand Busby found himself in the position of an official with no power of enforcing his decisions. He established good relations in most cases with both the missionaries and the Maoris, though his house was attacked on one occasion and he was slightly wounded. Busby's position was abolished in May 1839, but he remained on the spot, and when Captain Hobson (q.v.) became lieutenant-governor of New Zealand in January 1840, Busby worked with him and actually drafted the famous Treaty of Waitangi with the Maoris. On 1 September 1840 Hobson wrote a letter of thanks to Busby saying "through your disinterested and unbiased advice, and to your personal exertions, I may chiefly ascribe the ready adherence of the chiefs to the treaty". Busby could have had a good position under Hobson, but having purchased land from the Maoris he preferred to become a grazier. The New Zealand government, however, would not allow his title to it, and much of the rest of his life was taken up in a struggle to obtain the land or to obtain compensation. Busby's speech to the house of representatives of New Zealand on 1 August 1856 was printed in that year as a pamphlet under the title The First Settlers in New Zealand and their Treatment by the Government. In April 1870 Busby was awarded £36,800, considered to be the value of scrip for 73,000 acres of land. But the cash value of this was estimated at only £23,000 and that sum was finally accepted by Busby. He had spent many thousands of pounds in prosecuting his claims, and when his debts were paid only about £3000 remained for himself. He travelled to England calling at Sydney on the way, and died near London on 15 July 1871. He married Agnes Dow, who survived him with two sons and a daughter. In addition to the works already mentioned Busby was the author of Authentic Information Relating to N.S.W. and N.Z (1832), The Australian Farmer and Land Owner's Guide (1839), The Constitutional Relations of British Colonies to the Mother Country (1865), The Rebellions of the Maories traced to their True Origin (1865), Our Colonial Empire and the Case of New Zealand (1866), and other pamphlets.
E. Ramsden, Busby of Waitangi and Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XXVI, pp. 361-86 and vol. XXVII, pp. 154-65; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. XIV, XV, XVI; G. W. Rusden, History of New Zealand.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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