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Letter written to George Jones
Title : Letter written to George Jones Letter written to George Jones
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Creator : Light, William, 1786-1839
Source : PRG 1/10
Date of creation : 1836
Format : Manuscript
Dimensions : 270 x 435 mm [open]
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
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Description :

A letter written by William Light from 'Gulf St Vincent, Lat.34.43 Long. 138.3'. Dated 22 November 1836 and sent to George Jones, the letter writes about the site Light had chosen for the new settlement and includes a sketch of the locality along with an enthusiastic description of the area.

George Jones was an eminent British artist whose portrait of Light painted in 1823 is held by the National Portrait Gallery in London. Light's letter pre-dates the official decision on the location of the capital by five weeks. It was written on board the Rapid on 22 November 1836, the day after Light completed an exploration of the southern reaches of the Port River (Gulf St. Vincent).

The letter confirms that by this stage Light fully intended the settlement to be located in the general area where Adelaide now stands, although he was still obliged to consider other places, including Encounter Bay and Port Lincoln. Writing to a friend Light gives a different emphasis than in his letter to the South Australian Commissioners written the same day, in which he indicates his preference for the site of Adelaide in less definite terms and adds his obligation to ... look at other places first, before I fix on the capital, yet I feel assured...that I shall only be losing time.'

The letter to George Jones shows that Light was excited and full of optimism about the potential of the harbour and the Adelaide plain make this one of the finest settlements in the whole world . A rough sketch shows that he intended the site of the capital to be south of the Port River and several miles inland from Holdfast Bay. The sketch includes notes on the terrain and possible uses of the land. A proposed canal connecting the city with Port Adelaide is also shown.

The letter also indicates Light's frame of mind at this critical time, his optimism tempered with exasperation at the response of some settlers to the choice of site. Light anticipates that there will be opposition to the choice of the site, but is confident that history will prove him correct:

...I have no doubts all will go on well, it will I am sure after I am dead and then, perhaps not till then the world will give me credit for being resolute now.

This letter is featured on Australia Post's Letters of a Nation website that has been archived here:

Related names :

Light, William, 1786-1839

Period : 1836-1851
Further reading :

['Report on the survey of Adelaide'] South Australian Record , vol. 1 no. 3 (27 November) 1837, p. 23-24. John Morphett's report to the Colonial Commissioners.

'Col. Light and Mr. Kingston' South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register 16 June 1838, p. 2, cols. c-d. Reflections on GS Kingston's ability as a surveyor.

Kingston, George Strickland. 'The site of the City of Adelaide' South Australian Register 21 May 1877, p. 6, cols. e-f. Kingston details his participation in the selection of the site of Adelaide.

Light, William. William Light's brief journal and Australian diaries with an introduction and notes by David Elder. Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1984

Mayo, M P. The life and letters of Col. William Light Adelaide: FW Preece & Sons, 1937

Johnson, Donald Leslie and Donald Langmead. The Adelaide City Plan: fiction and fact Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 1986

Dutton, Geoffrey and David Elder. Colonel William Light: founder of a city Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1991

Johnson, Donald Leslie. 'The Kingston/Light plan of Adelaide and founding the city' Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia no. 32, 2004, p. 5-18

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