ROBE, Frederick Holt (1801-1871)

ROBE, Frederick Holt (1801-1871)
governor of South Australia
fourth son of Sir William Robe, colonel, royal artillery, was born probably in 1801. He entered the army in 1817, was promoted lieutenant in 1825, captain in 1833, and brevet-major in 1841. He fought with distinction in the Syrian campaign in 1840-1, became military secretary at Mauritius, and was holding the same office at Gibraltar when he was appointed governor of South Australia. He arrived at Adelaide on 14 October 1845, a blunt honest soldier, without previous experience as a governor. He came into conflict with the legislative council because the Imperial government endeavoured to charge royalties on the mineral wealth that had been discovered in the colony. This was felt to be a breach of faith on the government's part, the four non-official members of the council strenuously opposed the proposed royalties, and, when they were carried by the casting vote of the governor, walked out of the chamber leaving the council without a quorum. Eventually the bill was withdrawn, but Robe, who had merely been trying to carry out his instructions from London, incurred much unpopularity. He had more trouble over the question of State aid to religion, which he favoured, but which was strongly opposed. Having asked to be relieved of his position, his tenure as governor came to an end in August 1848, and he was appointed deputy-quartermaster and general at Mauritius, with a salary of £1000 a year and a seat in the legislative council. He was made a C.B. and promoted colonel in 1854 and major-general in 1862. He died on 4 April 1871.
Though an honourable man with the courage of his convictions, a high sense of duty, and good administrative talents, Robe was too autocratic and conservative to be a suitable choice as governor of a rising young colony.
E. Hodder, The History of South Australia; J. Blacket, History of South Australia; The Times, 8 April 1871.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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