Pennell to Under-Secretary of State
15 July 1861
I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to send you herewith, for the information of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, copies of two letters from Rear Admiral Sir T. Maitland dated the 15th and 24th May last Nos 135 and 144 reporting the proceedings of the Ships under his orders, and mentioning a Report that Fannings Island had been taken possession of on the 8th February last by HMS Alert.
I am etc.
H.C. Pennell
Pro Sec
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
It is not stated whether the Commander of the "Alert" had orders from H.M. Govt to take possession of Fannings Island. According to the Directory for the Pacific Ocean this Island wd seem of little value to this Country as a Colony, & is likely to cause more trouble than it is worth.
ABd 18 July
Mr Fortescue
Fanning's Island is one of the innumerable and almost useless little coral IslandsManuscript image in the Pacific Ocean. It is situated at what by a rough estimate from the map may be described as 300 miles north from the Fiji Islands, and 1600 miles north from New Zealand, this last being the nearest British Settlement. What possible object there can have been in the folly of declaring this Island British I am unable to imagine.
I would propose to answer that the Secretary of State for this Department has never received the least intimation of any project to take possession of Fanning's Island, a small and apparently worthless coral Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and at a distance of nearly 2000 miles from the nearest British Settlement. I should request therefore that if their Lordships may know of any instructions or any motives which may have led to this step, they will inform the Duke of Newcastle of them, or that if on the other hand the rumor on the subject should hereafter prove to be unfounded, they will so apprize this Department.
TFE 2 Augt
CF 2
N 4
Other documents included in the file
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Rogers to Secretary to the Admiralty, 8 August 1861, asking what instructions or motives may have led to the claiming of Fanning Island.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Maitland to Secretary to the Admiralty, 15 May 1861, reporting the disposition of the ships under his command.
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Maitland to Secretary to the Admiralty, 24 May 1861, reporting the activities of his ships, and mentioning a report in the Honolulu papers of HMS Alert having taken possession of Fanning Island.