Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Raymond, James (1786–1851)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

James Raymond (1786?-1851), postmaster-general, was reputedly a landowner and magistrate in County Limerick, Ireland, who became involved in disturbances there and was forced to abandon his property when his life was threatened. When his lands became dilapidated in his absence, Raymond decided to emigrate. In July 1824 Henry Goulburn wrote on his behalf to Earl Bathurst, requesting a free passage for Raymond and his family to New South Wales because of their misfortunes in Ireland. Governor (Sir) Ralph Darling was asked to provide Raymond with a suitable colonial appointment and, until it became available, to allow him the means of subsistence. With his wife Aphra and nine children, Raymond arrived at Sydney in the Thames in April 1826, and in May Darling made him coroner at Parramatta on a salary of £50, with additional allowances of £184 in place of rations and lodgings until a more suitable appointment could be found.

By September 1826 Darling was complaining to the Colonial Office that Raymond found his income insufficient and considered that the government should support him. Darling had intended to employ Raymond as police magistrate because of his supposed Irish experience, but Raymond denied this report, and his work as coroner proved that his education had been insufficient to equip him either for business or for public position. The Colonial Office replied that no other expectation had been held out to Raymond than the mere sufficiency afforded by a minor position, and that his allowances were to be only temporary. Meanwhile Darling had decided that Raymond's income was insufficient to maintain such a large family and had increased his allowance to £400. He was forced to withdraw this increase when he heard from the British government, and despite further appeals on Raymond's behalf no additional allowance was approved.

In September 1827 Darling, reluctant either to allow the family to starve or to be obliged to meet Raymond's debts, made him searcher and surveyor of customs. In April 1829 George Panton, the postmaster, died and Raymond was appointed to succeed him at a salary of £400; this was confirmed by Downing Street in September. Despite complaints that Raymond was dependent on his clerk for the executive and legislative duties of his department and an accusation that he had unfairly dismissed the clerk, Darling upheld Raymond's conduct and later governors praised him as a meritorious public servant. In 1835 his title was changed to postmaster-general, and his salary had increased to £650 by the time of his death.

Raymond is noted for suggesting the introduction of stamped sheets to be used as envelopes, on the model of Rowland Hill's proposals; this suggestion was adopted by Governor Sir George Gipps in November 1838, anticipating the British penny postage in 1840. In 1839 Raymond bought Varroville, near Campbelltown, from Charles Sturt and there entertained extensively. He was also a keen follower of horse-racing and owned several horses himself. He died at Darlinghurst on 29 May 1851 aged 65, and was buried at St Peter's, Cook's River. His wife Aphra predeceased him on 1 September 1848; they had seven daughters and four sons, of whom James and Robert Peel held positions in the post office and William was a landholder at Bathurst.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 12-13, 15-17, 19
  • R. C. V. Humphrey, ‘The Early Postal and Philatelic History of the Colony of New South Wales’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 25, part 4, 1939, pp 268-78
  • Sydney Gazette, 12 Apr, 6 May 1826
  • Australian, 28 Apr 1829
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 May 1851
  • manuscript catalogue under James Raymond (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Raymond, James (1786–1851)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/raymond-james-2575/text3523, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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