A manuscript petition signed by 54 'householders and members of the German Lutheran Congregations of Klemzig and Hahndorf' on 26 May 1842, seeking to have Pastor Kavel licensed as an Officiating Minister under a new 'Act for Regulating Marriages in the Province of South Australia'
Foolscap folio, a bifolium, comprising the half-page petition with three neat columns each of fourteen signatures below it; a further twelve signatures on the verso; third page blank; fourth page docketed. Four horizontal folds, with very slight wear to the open ends of the creases; when folded, the docketed portion of the last leaf has been exposed and is a little sunned; overall, the document is in excellent condition.
The Act came into operation on 1 July 1842. It called for Ministers of Religion to be registered, or any marriages they performed would be deemed invalid. Automatically eligible under the Act were 'clergymen of the United Church of England and Ireland and of the Church of Scotland'. Section XXXII stated 'That any minister of religion who shall have been for a period of twelve months in charge of a christian congregation consisting of at least forty householders resident in the province may apply to the Registrar General and the Registrar General on production of certificates signed in duplicate by such forty householders at least stating that the applicant has been for such period of twelve months a minister of religion in charge of such congregation of which they are members shall enter such applicant as an officiating minister within the meaning of this Act in a book to be kept for that purpose and shall file and preserve one of such certificates among the records of this office and shall give public notice thereof in the South Australian Government Gazette'. Offered here for sale is one of the original pair of petitions, being the copy returned to the parishioners in accordance with the strict letter of the Act. That it has survived is one thing (handed down through one of the families). That virtually all of the signatories arrived in South Australia on the 'German First Fleet' is something else again. The story is too well-known to require a detailed account, but briefly, during 'the bitter church struggle arising from the King of Prussia's attempt in 1817 to enforce unity of Lutherans and Calvinists within his realm' (Australian Dictionary of Biography), Pastor August Kavel and his congregation sought to emigrate to places where they could practise their faith in freedom. In 1836, he heard of George Fife Angas and the new colony of South Australia. The upshot was that the 'largest group of devout families that he [Angas] persuaded to emigrate to the new colony were the German Lutherans under Pastor August Kavel. When the Colonization Commission and the [South Australian Company] refused to help, he personally advanced some £8000 to the Germans for their migration. On arrival many of them became tenants on his land at Klemzig' (ADB). They arrived on the 'Prince George', the 'Bengalee', the 'Zebra', and the 'Catharina' between 18 November 1838 and 22 January 1839. The first notice regarding the licensing of ministers under the new Act was dated 25 May 1842, and it appeared in the South Australian Government Gazette Number 229, published the following day. The notice was placed by the Registrar General, none other than Charles Sturt, unhappily cooling his heels in an inferior position on insufficient pay, while preparing 'a grandiose plan for exploring and surveying, within two years, the entire unknown interior of the continent' (ADB) - but that's another story ... When he received the Kavel petitions, he docketed them; on this copy he wrote '1. Certificate of the Householders of the Villages of Klemzig and Handorff [sic] in favor of the Revd. A. Kavel, Lutheran Minister. May 26th 1842' and signed it 'C. Sturt RG'. A more pleasing (and unlikely) group of signatures relating to the foundation of South Australia that one might wish to have materialise after some 170 years is difficult to imagine! Notification that 'the Reverend Augustus Kavel has been entered as an Officiating Minister' appeared in Gazette Number 231 on 9 June 1842.