Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James Belbin (1771–1848)

by F. C. Green

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James Belbin (1771-1848), convict and settler, was born in London. Convicted at the Old Bailey in January 1788 and his death sentence commuted to transportation for seven years, he reached Sydney in the Salamander in August 1791. In due course he transferred as a settler to Norfolk Island, where he received land and by 1796 was selling pork to the government. When the colonists of Norfolk Island were deported, Belbin moved to Hobart Town in 1808; he was then a widower with five daughters, the eldest aged 16, and a son of 5. Next year he got into trouble for his support of the deposed Governor William Bligh who had come to Hobart. Twice arrested, Belbin refused to acknowledge any person but Bligh as governor-in-chief of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. He was ordered 500 lashes but, because of his poor physical condition after a month in gaol he was incapable of receiving more than fifty. His only offence had been in persisting in his loyalty to the King's representative. After ten weeks in custody he was released but was victimized by having his children and himself removed from the list of persons entitled to rations. He decided to seek justice in London. Accompanied by his son he sailed from Hobart on 16 November 1811, working his passage to England; there he petitioned for the restoration of his rights as a free settler. On Bligh's recommendation, the Colonial Office ordered that Belbin and his son be given free passages back to Hobart, and a land grant and the other concessions to which he was entitled as a Norfolk Island evacuee. In June 1813 he sailed in the Earl Spencer and obtained letters about his grant from Governor Lachlan Macquarie before proceeding to Hobart; for all that, it took him two years to get his affairs settled. He received land at Cambridge, between Hobart and Pittwater, where he built a home, made a prosperous farm and brought up a second family. In 1819 he was appointed stock inspector and in 1844 was given a pension of £75. He died at Hobart on 8 May 1848.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Belbin, diary (Royal Society of Tasmania, Hobart)
  • correspondence file under Belbin (Archives Office of Tasmania).

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Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

F. C. Green, 'Belbin, James (1771–1848)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


London, Middlesex, England


8 May, 1848 (aged ~ 77)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death

general debility

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Key Events
Social Issues
Convict Record

Crime: theft (house)
Sentence: death
Commuted To: 7 years
Court: Old Bailey, London
Trial Date: 9 January 1788