Thomas Peel, a leader or a loser?

Thomas Peel, born in Lancashire in 1793, was part of a wealthy family which had made money from cotton manufacturing. Perhaps wishing to better himself socially, the young Thomas decided not to join the family firm but chose instead to work with a firm of attorneys. After living briefly in Scotland, he moved to London with his wife and children with the intention of emigrating to New South Wales until he heard about the prospects of a new free colony at Swan River, that is, it was not intended to be a penal colony. He joined a syndicate which put forward an ambitious proposal to the British government to transfer 10,000 settlers within four years. Each settler was to have 200 acres (81 hectares) while the syndicate wanted 4,000,000 acres (1,618,760 hectares). Meanwhile Captain James Stirling, who had explored the Swan River region in 1827, wanted land for himself and ideally, governorship of a new crown colony. The government decided that the best outcome for them was to agree to deal with the syndicate but reduce the amount of land to a quarter of that requested. All the financiers withdrew except Thomas Peel who entered into a new and complicated partnership with Solomon Levey, in which Peel was to be given a salary as manager of the enterprise as well as land. Peel chose 250, 000 acres (101, 172 hectares) of land on the southern banks of the Swan and Canning Rivers in January 1829, but at the last minute the government stipulated that the first load of emigrants were to be landed by the 1 November that year. Unfortunately the Gilmore bearing 179 emigrants landed six weeks late, and Peel was forced to accept his acreage to the south of his preferred allotment. From then on Peel’s luck deserted him – he was unhappy with the allotment, Levey’s promised stock and stores did not arrive from Sydney and many died from malnutrition in the first few months, he was in poor health, his settlers were dissatisfied and many sued for freedom from indenture leaving him to deal with debts and a failed settlement scheme. It must have cheered him at least to see his wife and children when they arrived from England in 1838. After selling off some of his land five years later, he was able to fund his wife and daughters return to England where he hoped to follow. However it was not to be, burdened with debt as he was. The years rolled on and his elder daughter and wife died twenty years later from consumption, while his younger daughter returned to be with what family there was left, her father and her brother. Although Thomas Peel died in 1865 poor, crusty and withdrawn, he nevertheless had gained the respect of Governor Stirling and the early settlers who recognised his vision and courage. He never complained about the country or his circumstances – which was uncommon amongst his contemporaries. There would have been few who would have been surprised if he had complained, but perhaps he was more of a philosopher. His name is used today for the Peel region in Western Australia.