The first civil law case

Perhaps the most remarkable part of the Henry Kable & Susannah Holmes story and its place in modern day Australia, arose through the donation of goods given to them before leaving England. These goods could not be found on arrival. After some pleading from them, for restitution, they were enabled by Governor Arthur Phillip, Judge Advocate David Collins and Reverend Richard Johnson (the Judicial Group of the new Colony) to sue the ship’s master. Thus they became participants in the first Civil Law Case of the colony. By being granted permission to engage in this legal action, Henry and Susannah and the decision by Arthur Phillip and David Collins to set aside British Law which as convicts, to be allowed to sue was against the law of England, the roots of a democratic society were established in the new colony.

David Collins

David Collins (click image for more details)

Henry and Susannah were successful litigants with damages of 15 pounds awarded. Thus Henry and Susannah, as vocal but unwitting players, in time became most influential in the development of the nation of modern Australia. In this 21st century the KABLE principle is still referred to in cases of law. They were placed in a position through circumstance that saw them become participants in the establishment of the RULE OF LAW in the new colony of New South Wales. This establishment of the principle of the Rule of Law changed the operation of the newly established penal colony from one of slavery to one that enabled people to expect a fair go for all and through hard work to be rewarded for those efforts.

The Law Society of the NSW was particularly conscious of the significance of Henry and Susannah’s involvement in the first civil law case of the colony and its ramifications for the developing colony and nation and in the 1980’s the public were invited to view and participate in the first civil law case re-enactment at the Rocks.

Cable v. Sinclair [1788] NSWKR 7; [1788] NSWSupC 7

To read the manuscript of the court case, published on the Macquarie University website, click here.