Matra, James M. (1746 - 1806)

Matra became a leading proponent of the idea of establishing a convict colony at Botany Bay. He presented his schemes for settlement to the Portland and Pitt administrations in 1783 and 1784. One of the very few Europeans then alive who had actually visited New South Wales, he testified to the House of Commons committee enquiring into the resumption of transportation in May 1785.As Nepean's 'Memo of matters to be brought before Cabinet', about December 1784, indicated, when Pitt's ministers considered 'The Erecting a Settlement upon the Coast of New South Wales which is intended as an Assylum for some of the American Loyalists, who are now ready to depart and also as a place for the Transportation of Young Offenders who[se] crimes have not been of the most heinous nature', they were considering Matra's plan. His proposal to colonize New South Wales accorded well with the government's interests in disposing of the convicts, in building strategic resources in the Pacific Ocean and in establishing a trading network linking Asia and the Americas to Europe.Disappointed in his hopes for a post in his proposed colony, in July 1786 Matra accepted the appointment of consul at Tangier, Morocco, where he was to remain (with some respites at Gibraltar when the plague ravaged North Africa) until his death. His later life exemplified the common lot of American Loyalists who, displaced and poverty-stricken, had to eke out precarious existences. 'I occupy but a small place on this Globe', he wrote plaintively in 1781, '& yet there is not room on it for me'.