CAMPBELL, Robert (1769-1846)

CAMPBELL, Robert (1769-1846)
first Sydney merchant
son of John Campbell, writer to the signet, was born at Greenock, Scotland, on 28 April 1769. He went to India when a young man and with an elder brother was a partner in Campbell, Clark and Company, merchants of Calcutta. Campbell came to Sydney in June 1798 and opened a branch of it s firm. He subsequently built Campbell's wharf and developed a large business as a general merchant. After the arrival of Governor Bligh (q.v.) in August 1806, Campbell's high character led to his being appointed treasurer to the public funds, naval officer, and collector of taxes, and, there being no bank at Sydney in 1807, the gaol and orphan funds were deposited with Campbell on its undertaking to pay interest at five per cent However, in April 1808, after the deposition of Bligh, Campbell was dismissed from his offices by Lieut.-Colonel Johnston (q.v.). When Governor Macquarie (q.v.) arrived on 28 December 1809 Campbell was temporarily reinstated, but the governor, on 8 March 1810, feeling that it was not right that a private merchant should be the collector of customs, asked the colonial office that a fresh appointment should be made of someone not "concerned in trade". Campbell's business prospered and he also received large grants of land and was a pioneer of the district in which Canberra was afterwards built. In later years Campbell provided half the cost of the church of St John the Baptist in its original form. In December 1825 Campbell was appointed a member of the first New South Wales legislative council. In January 1830 he was a member of the committee which recommended that King's schools should be founded at Sydney and Parramatta, and as evidence of his continued high standing in the community, when the Savings Bank of New South Wales was founded in 1832 it was found that Campbell had had deposited with him £8000 belonging to convicts, and £2000 belonging to free people. He was allowing seven and a half per cent interest on these deposits. Campbell retired from the legislative council and from public life in 1843, and in 1844 his name was included in a list of those considered eligible for a proposed local order of merit. He died at Duntroon on 15 April 1846, probably the most trusted member of the community, and a benefactor of many of the colony's institutions. He married and was survived by four sons of whom the second, Robert Campbell, was a well-known public man and politician. He was colonial treasurer in the first Cowper (q.v.) ministry in 1856, and in the second Cowper ministry from 4 January 1858 until his death On 30 March 1859.
Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. II to XXIV; S. Houison, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XXIII, pp. 1-28; F. Watson, A Brief History of Canberra; W. Davis Wright, Canberra; F. W. Robinson, Canberra's First Hundred Years; J. Gale, Canberra, History of and Legends Relating to the Federal Capital Territory.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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