WELD, Frederick Aloysius (1823-1891)

WELD, Frederick Aloysius (1823-1891)
governor of Western Australia and Tasmania
was born at Chideock Manor, Dorset, England, on 9 May 1823. He came of an old Roman Catholic family, his grandfather founded Stonyhurst College, and an uncle became a cardinal. Weld was the son of Humphrey Weld and his wife, Maria Christina, daughter of Charles Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and was educated at Stonyhurst and at the university of Friburg in Switzerland. In November 1843 he sailed for New Zealand with a land order for too acres, a town lot in the future city of Wellington, and a little capital. He arrived at Wellington harbour on 23 April 1844. He bought a share in a station property with which he had some success, did some exploring, and in 1848 was offered a seat on a proposed nominee council by the governor, Sir George Grey (q.v.). Weld declined this and in 1852 visited England where he published a pamphlet, Hints to Intending Sheep Farmers in New Zealand, which ran into three editions. Returning to New Zealand he found that it had been granted representative government, and at the first election he was elected member for Wairau. In 1860 he became minister for native affairs in the Stafford ministry which resigned in 1861, and in 1864 prime minister. His administration was a short one but it did admirable work in the most difficult circumstances. Weld, however, overworked, his health broke down, and he was compelled to take a long rest. In May 1867 he left for England, and in 1869 published his, Notes on New Zealand Affairs. In March of the same year he was appointed governor of Western Australia. He arrived at Albany on 18 September 1869, and went by land to Perth, partly riding and partly driving.
Western Australia at this time had a population of under 25,000, and nearly everything in the colony was in a primitive state. Much fell on the governor who had often to give decisions on most trifling matters, but during Weld's governorship of about five years, many changes for the better were made. A council of 18 was constituted in 1870, 12 of whom were elected and six nominated, the first steps in the direction of municipal government were taken, an elementary education act was passed, new land regulations were framed, and an agitation for responsible government begun. Weld judged that his wisest course would be to assist this movement and had a bill prepared to establish a constitution for Western Australia. There was much objection to the proposal that the members of the upper house should be nominated, but while the measure was being considered Weld was given the governorship of Tasmania, and after his departure the question was dropped for a long period. He left Western Australia on 6 January 1875, having done excellent work. Though the population had increased very little there had been a great increase of exports, a steam-service along the coast had been established, the commencement of a railway system had been made, and the number of miles of telegraph line had increased from 12 to 900. The governor had also encouraged the explorations of John Forrest (q.v.) and had himself travelled over much of the settled country. He found his task in Tasmania much easier. He made himself familiar with the country, but he had few problems of any difficulty though always glad to give his ministers the benefit of his wide experience. Early in 1880 he was transferred to the Straits Settlements and for seven years was an admirable governor. He left Singapore on 17 October 1887 and lived in retirement at Chideock Manor where he was born. He died there on 20 July 1891 . He married in 1858 Filomena Mary Anne, daughter of Ambrose Lisle March-Phillippe-de Lisle, who survived him with 12 children. He was created C.M.G. in 1875, K.C.M.G. in 1880, G.C.M.G. in 1885.
Weld was a man of fine character and an excellent governor. Western Australia was in a state of stagnation when he arrived and he did much to bring it to life again. Wise, courteous and conciliatory, he could be firm when it was necessary. His administration marks a turning point in the early history of Western Australia.
Alice, Lady Lovat, The Life of Sir Frederick Weld; J. S. Battye, Western Australia, a History; J. H. Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dates; Burke's Peerage, etc., 1891.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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