Part 3 - Home Office (HO)

In 1782 the division of foreign business between the Northern and Southern Departments in Great Britain was abolished. Out of this administrative change was born the Home Office, assuming jurisdiction over domestic affairs of the realm.

The functions of the Home Office were then largely the transmission and answerig of petitions to the Sovereign from his subjects, advice on the exercise of royal prerogatives, especially the 'prerogative of mercy', and the issuing of instructions on behalf of the Sovereign to Officers of the Crown, Lords Lieutenant, Magistrates, Governors of Colonies and others, in connection with the maintenance of law and order and the defence of the realm. The new Department also immediately became responsible for colonial affairs and remained so until 1801 despite the appointment of a Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in 1794. A number of duties of the Office have since been superseded and other added, control of the penal system being amongst them (1823).

Although the duties of the Home Office have been altered from time to time, the most important as regards Australian historical interest remains that of maintenance of the Sovereign's Peace. Under the sway of this power fall those disturbers of the peace, the convicts. As noted above, the Home Office was responsible for colonial affairs and remained so until 1801, but the bulk of records affecting the colonies has been transferred to the Colonial Office. Most of the remaining records of interest to the Australian Joint Copying Project concern the convicts.

Among the main classes copied can be found the two earliest censuses held in Australia, the 1828 and 1837 censuses.