PATERSON, William (1755-1810)

PATERSON, William (1755-1810)
explorer and lieutenant-governor of New South Wales
was born on 17 August 1755. As a young man he became interested in botany, visited South Africa in 1777, and made four expeditions into the interior. An account of these, Narrative of Four Journeys into the Country of the Hottentots and Caffraria, was published in 1789. He returned to England and became an ensign in the army in 1781. After service in India he joined the New South Wales Corps and was gazetted captain in June 1789. He arrived at Port Jackson in October 1791, and a few days later sailed to Norfolk Island to take up the command of the military. He returned to Sydney in March 1793 and six months later became second in command of the New South Wales Corps. In September he made an unsuccessful attempt to find a way through the Blue Mountains. In December 1794, on the departure of Francis Grose (q.v.), he became administrator of the government until the arrival of Hunter (q.v.) in September 1795. Paterson obtained sick leave and went to England in 1796, and remained there until 1799. He had been promoted major in 1795 and lieutenant-colonel in January 1798. In March 1799 he was instructed to return to New South Wales, and on 29 September 1800 King (q.v.) appointed him lieutenant-governor. In the trouble that arose out of the trial of James Marshall, Paterson supported his officers in their refusal to reconsider the trial, but would not agree to Macarthur's proposal to withdraw from intercourse with the governor. Shortly afterwards he challenged Macarthur (q.v.) to a duel on account of Macarthur having disclosed information in a private letter. Macarthur wounded Paterson in the shoulder. On account of this duel Macarthur was sent to England under arrest in November 1801. In May 1804 King received a dispatch instructing him to found a new settlement at Port Dalrymple and place it under the charge of Paterson. On 15 October Paterson sailed with a detachment of military and 74 convicts. He first selected a site at the Western Arm and named it York Town, but subsequently removed the settlement to the present site of Launceston. He had the usual difficulties at new settlements and the hardships injured his health. On 2 February 1808 Major Johnston reported to Paterson the arrest of Governor Bligh (q.v.). Paterson replied ordering H.M.S. Porpoise to be sent to Port Dalrymple to convey him to Sydney. He was evidently temporizing, for on one plea or another he did not reach Sydney until 1 January 1809. He assumed government on 9 January and held it for nearly 12 months. His administration was a weak one, he was in a bad state of health, he was drinking heavily, he could easily be imposed upon by men of stronger will, and he made grants of land to almost anyone who applied. He was superseded by Macquarie (q.v.) on 1 January 1810. Paterson left New South Wales on 12 May and died at sea on 21 June 1810.
Paterson, a fellow of the Royal Society, was a better man of science than an administrator. He kept in touch with Banks, often forwarding specimens to him. His botanical collections are in the natural history museum at South Kensington, London. As an officer he was not without courage, but he showed little ability in his conduct of the affairs of the colony. An amiable but weak man, his lavish grants of land were not to his own advantage: he died a poor man, and his widow was granted two thousand acres of land by Macquarie.
F. Watson, Introduction vol. VII, Historical Records of Australia, ser. I; See also vols. III to VI; Historical Records of New South Wales, vols. II, VII; G. Mackaness, The Life of Vice-Admiral William Bligh; Mrs Marnie Bassett, The Governor's Lady.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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