MACQUARIE, Lachlan (1761-1824)

MACQUARIE, Lachlan (1761-1824)
governor of New South Wales
was born at Ulva, one of the Hebrides Islands, on 31 January 1761. He was a cousin of the Lauchlan Macquarie who was visited by Dr Johnson in October 1773. At an early age the boy was sent to Edinburgh to be educated at the high school. On 9 April 1777 he entered the army as an ensign in the 84th regiment of foot, and he became a lieutenant in the 71st regiment in January 1781 after serving in Halifax and other parts of Nova Scotia. At the close of the war with the United States his regiment was sent to Jamaica. In June 1784 Macquarie was placed on half-pay and returned to Scotland. The opportunity for active service came again in November 1787, when he joined the 77th regiment and went to India. Stationed at first at Bombay Macquarie was soon made a captain and subsequently fought in the campaign against Tippoo Sahib. After peace had been declared the regiment returned to Bombay, and Macquarie was given a staff appointment under Sir Robert Abercromby as major of brigade in August 1793. Two years later he was with the expedition for the recovery of the Dutch settlement at Cochin, which had been taken by the French, and about the beginning of 1796 he was present at the taking of Colombo and Point de Galle. He had married in September 1793 Jane Jarvis, and early in 1796 her health became so bad that he took her for a sea voyage to China in the hope of benefiting her. She, however, died in China in July 1796 to his great grief. In May 1796 he had become major of the 86th regiment. In the next few years he fought again against Tippoo Sahib and held various important positions. In 180l he was with the force sent to Egypt, and on 7 November he became deputy adjutant-general on the staff of the Earl of Cavan. On returning to India in July 1802 he assumed command of his regiment and became military secretary on the staff of the governor. In January 1803 he sailed for England carrying dispatches from Governor Duncan at Bombay in which he was commended for his services. He arrived in May and in July was offered an appointment as one of three officers on a military mission to Portugal. He declined on account of his want of knowledge of Portuguese and was given a staff appointment in London. On 17 November 1803 a commission as lieutenant-colonel was granted to him, and in April 1805 he returned to India to take command of the 86th regiment and was again appointed military secretary. Towards the end of the year he fought against Holkar. In 1807 he returned to England and was married to his second wife, Elizabeth Henrietta Campbell. In the following year, when the news of the deposition of Governor Bligh (q.v.) reached England, it was decided that a new governor should be appointed and the position was offered to Brigadier-general Nightingall. It was also decided to send the 73rd regiment with Macquarie in command to relieve the New South Wales Corps. Nightingall, however, falling ill was unable to go, and on 8 May 1809 Macquarie was appointed captain-general and governor-in-chief of New South Wales.
Macquarie sailed on 22 May and made his official landing at Sydney on 31 December 1809. He had orders to reinstate Bligh for one day but this could not be done as Bligh was at Hobart. He was in some doubt as to how he would be received, but he had brought the 73rd regiment with him and there was no trouble. The officers of the New South Wales Corps soon realized that their reign was at an end, though for about 18 years they had dominated and lived on the country, in spite of the efforts of three successive governors to control their traffic in spirits and land. Macquarie immediately got to work and dismissed all the persons who had been appointed to offices since the deposition of Bligh, and replaced those who had formerly held them. He found the country "threatened with famine; distracted by faction; the public buildings in a state of dilapidation; the few roads and bridges almost impassable; the population in general depressed by poverty; . . . the morals of the great mass of the population in the lowest state of debasement, and religious worship almost entirely neglected". One of his first acts was to reduce the number of licensed public houses in Sydney from 75 to 20, though very soon after their number was much increased, and he early began the vigorous building policy that was a feature of his administration. The streets were straightened and improved, new barracks were built for his regiment, and the New South Wales Corps was sent back to England. In November he began a tour of the colony and in little more than a month was able to form some opinion of its capabilities. Unfortunately most of the good land near Sydney was subject to flooding and no way through the mountains had yet been found. Macquarie set his face against attempted monopolies in the necessaries of life, and succeeded in preventing the inflation of prices by importing grain from India in times of scarcity. His one early mistake was to give him much trouble. He was anxious that emancipated convicts should have every opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, and he invited some of them to his table and even appointed them as magistrates. If he had been prudent enough to have begun with such a man as the Rev. Henry Fulton (q.v.), who was merely a political offender, he might gradually have persuaded the officers and free settlers to accept others. But men of the type of Michael Massey Robinson (q.v.) were not really worthy of the notice given them, and Macquarie's well-intentioned efforts were, practically speaking, unsuccessful and only a cause of worry to him. Macquarie realized the necessity of providing education, and free schools for boys were opened at Sydney and Parramatta within a few months of his arrival. The first post-office was opened on 23 June, a large market place was proclaimed on 20 October 1810, and attempts were made to keep the stream that then ran through Sydney pure. In the same month Macquarie was able to report to the Earl of Liverpool that a turnpike road with a number of bridges was being constructed from Sydney to Hawkesbury, a distance of nearly 40 miles. He also pressed for the evacuation of Norfolk Island, stating that it could never "be of the least advantage or benefit to the British government or to this colony". In 1811 Macquarie successfully reorganized the police of Sydney and made new regulations for the management of the market. He suggested to the Earl of Liverpool that trial by jury should be established, and that various officials of the court should be sent out from England. He was then on very good terms with the judge-advocate Ellis Bent (q.v.) and recommended that he should be made a judge. The home government was already questioning the increase in the expenditure, and in November 1812 Macquarie stated that a great proportion of the expenses incurred in the first 18 months of his government had originated in causes which were not likely to occur again. In 1813 a way was found through the Blue Mountains by Gregory Blaxland (q.v.), W. C. Wentworth (q.v.) and W. Lawson (q.v.). It is possible that the importance of this feat was not fully realized at the time, for there appears to have been no public recognition of it. More probably there had been some quarrel with the Blaxlands, as in the previous November Macquarie had complained to Liverpool of the large amount of money that the 120 men supplied to them had cost. However, on 19 November 1813, Macquarie sent G. W. Evans (q.v.) to explore beyond the mountains. In January 1814 he was able to report to Bathurst that Evans had discovered "a beautiful and champaign country of very considerable extent and great fertility" which . . . "will at no distant period prove a source of infinite benefit to this colony". It was not until 10 June 1815 that it was announced in general orders:—"To G. BlaxIand and W. Wentworth, Esqs, and Lieutenant Lawson, of the royal veteran company, the merit is due of having with extraordinary patience and much fatigue, effected the first passage over the most rugged and difficult part of the Blue Mountains." This tardy recognition was not creditable to Macquarie, whatever cause he may have had for disliking the Blaxlands. He has also been criticized for his building of a hospital by giving the contractors a monopoly for three years of the traffic in spirits. A hospital, however, was badly needed and it was no easy problem to find the funds. In a few years the local revenue and port dues enabled Macquarie to enter on an immense programme of public works, which included hundreds of miles of roads and several military barracks and country hospitals, new barracks for the convicts in various centres, and churches in Sydney and country towns. In this work he had the assistance of Francis Howard Greenway (q.v.) and it was unfortunate that the latter was not able to go on with his proposed planning of Sydney. Macquarie, however, did succeed in endowing Sydney with the botanical gardens, the domain, Hyde park and the university grounds, though the last were of course not designed for that purpose.
In 1815 Macquarie came to cross purposes with both Ellis Bent the judge-advocate and Jeffery Hart Bent (q.v.), the judge. Macquarie undoubtedly was too inclined to stand upon his dignity, but on the other hand he was quite right in his contention that convicted men who had expiated their offences by serving a sentence should be entitled to the rights and privileges of free British subjects. Whether this should be extended to allowing a man "guilty of a crime of an infamous nature" who had consequently lost his professional standing to appear as attorney in the court was a question of some difficulty. Macquarie also quarrelled with the Rev. Samuel Marsden (q.v.) on a similar matter. He had appointed two ex-convicts, Andrew Thompson and Simeon Lord, as magistrates, and Marsden objected to being associated with them and resigned his magistracy. Macquarie then announced that he "had been pleased to dispense with the services of the Reverend Samuel Marsden (q.v.) as justice of the peace and magistrate" which was treating Marsden with something less than justice. The position was that derogatory accounts of Macquarie's actions as governor had been sent to the colonial office, and Macquarie with insufficient evidence, but possibly correctly, thought that Marsden was responsible. Macquarie in 1815 had court-martialled an assistant chaplain, Benjamin Vale. He complained to the colonial office and was severely rebuked and reminded that chaplains could be court-martialled only for offences involving their character. Macquarie in his reply of 1 December 1817 had suggested that he should resign—Earl Bathurst in his letter in reply of 18 October 1818 tactfully told Macquarie that though it was impossible for him to abstain from pointing out "those cases in which you have either transgressed the laws or adopted an erroneous line of conduct", there had never been any imputation upon his character or the uprightness of his intentions. He had therefore deferred submitting his resignation to the Prince Regent until Macquarie had had an opportunity of reconsidering it. This letter never reached Macquarie (See H. R. of A., ser. I, vol. X, p. 291), and meanwhile various complaints against him had found their way to Bathurst. It was decided to appoint John Thomas Bigge (q.v.), a barrister of experience, as a commissioner to proceed to New South Wales and report on the position. In a dispatch dated 30 January 1819 Macquarie was informed of this and copies of Bigge's instructions were sent to him. The scope of his inquiry embraced practically all the affairs of the colony, and Macquarie was directed to give him every assistance in his power. Unfortunately, though Bigge was an able and conscientious man, he had no understanding of Macquarie's main desire that convicts should be allowed to redeem themselves, and generally he was not over appreciative of the work done by Macquarie, who on 29 February 1820 resigned his office as governor of the colony. On 1 December 1821 he handed over to his successor Sir Thomas Brisbane (q.v.), and in February 1822 left for England. He died at London on 1 July 1824 and was buried on the island of Mull. He was survived by his wife and one son, who died unmarried.
Macquarie was a tall, vigorous man, nearly 14 stone in weight with a swarthy skin and penetrating grey eyes. He had been a first-rate officer and administrator in the army, and came to his new office with practically the powers of a dictator. If too much inclined to stand upon his dignity and too little inclined to compromise where his powers were concerned, his vigorous humane policy came just at the right time. There had been a slight improvement in the conditions under each of the preceding governors, and the time had come for a forward movement. It was unfortunate for Macquarie that he came into conflict with Marsden, Jeffery Bent, and Bigge, who could all on occasions be unsympathetic or difficult, but his answer to all criticism is the work he did, and the general improvement that followed in the situation of the colonists. During the 12 years Macquarie was in Australia the population increased from 11,590 to 38,778, cattle from 12,442 to 102,939, sheep from 25,888 to 290,158, hogs from 9,544 to 33,906 and port duties from £8000 to £28,000 a year. During his period a beginning was made in the manufacture of cloth and linen, hats, stockings, boots and shoes and common pottery. A bank had been established and the state of the currency much improved. Two hundred and seventy-six miles of roads had been constructed and many churches, barracks and other buildings had been completed. When Macquarie arrived in New South Wales the place was still little better than a prison camp. When he left it was a lusty infant colony with every sign of rapid growth before it. Macquarie's occasional touches of pomposity, vanity, and obstinacy now seem of little moment. He was untiring in the conscientious carrying out of his duties, and his innate kindliness and humanity showed the way of escape from the general brutality of the period. His reward was the affection of the emancipists for whom he had worked so hard, and even John Macarthur (q.v.), one not easily pleased, could say of him that he was a man of unblemished honour and character.
Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. VII to X, ser. III, vols. I to III; A. Jose, Builders and Pioneers of Australia; Marion Phillips, A Colonial Autocracy; Frank Walker, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. I, pp. 28-33; F. M. Bladen, ibid, vol. II, pp. 171-2; J. P. McGuanne, ibid, Vol. IV, pp. 29-125; ibid, vol. V, pp. 74-103; Charles H. Bertie, ibid, vol. XVI, pp. 22-51; G. A. Wood, ibid, pp. 323-463; J. Dennis. ibid, vol. XXIII, pp. 412-72; M. H. Ellis, ibid, vol. XXVII, pp. 93-126; Frank Driscoll, ibid, pp. 373-433; M. H. Ellis, ibid, vol. XXVIII, pp. 375-475; John Thomas Bigge, Reports; Art in Australia, ser. I, No. 10, The Macquarie Book; The Gentleman's Magazine, 1824, vol. II, pp. 276-7.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • Macquarie, Lachlan — born Jan. 31, 1761, Ulva, Argyllshire, Scot. died July 1, 1824, London, Eng. British soldier and colonial governor. He served with the British army in North America, Europe, the West Indies, and India; in 1809 he was appointed governor of New… …   Universalium

  • Macquarie, Lachlan — (31 ene. 1761, Ulva, Argyllshire, Escocia–1 jul. 1824, Londres, Inglaterra). Militar británico y gobernador colonial. Sirvió en el ejército británico en América del Norte, Europa, Antillas e India; en 1809 fue nombrado gobernador de Nueva Gales… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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