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[Source: State Library of New South Wales.]
Extracted from the Introductions to
COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA.
TO AND FROM ENGLAND.
VOLUMES VIII - X.
July, 1813—December, 1822.
THE LIBRARY COMMITTEE OF THE
WILLIAM APPLEGATE GULLICK , GOVERNMENT PRINTER.
[Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. VIII: Introduction]
BY the appointment of Lachlan Macquarie as governor of New South Wales, the government showed that English opinion had changed regarding the qualifications required by the man who was to administer and control the affairs of the distant colony. Macquarie's predecessors had been naval officers. When captain William Bligh had been appointed at a salary of £2,000 per annum, it had been recognised that the growth and importance of the settlements made it necessary that an officer of not less than flag rank should hold the position. The disastrous result of placing a stern, outspoken naval post-captain in the command of a colony where the military party was predominant had been shown in the usurpation of Bligh's government. The appointment of a military governor of equal rank was determined, and the final selection was made of Macquarie. Instead of being accustomed to the bluff manners of the quarter-deck, Macquarie was courteous and politic. He had served on the staffs of the earls of Harrington and Cavan, Sir Robert Abercromby, Sir David Baird, and General James Stuart, and by experience had acquired the attributes necessary for an executive officer to avoid friction and useless controversies.
[Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. VIII: Introduction]
Lachlan Macquarie was born on the 31st of January, 1761. He was a descendant of the chiefs of the clan Macquarie in the island of Ulva, one of the Hebrides islands. At the time of his birth, his relative, Lauchlan Macquarrie, the sixteenth and last chief of the clan, had fallen on evil days, and in 1778 the family estates were sold by order of the creditors. Lachlan Macquarie was one of three brothers; the eldest lived and died a farmer, Lachlan and Charles entered the army. On the 9th of April, 1777, he was gazetted an ensign in the second battalion of the 84th regiment. Until the end of the year 1780, he served in Halifax and Nova Scotia, but was not on active service in the field. On the 18th of January, 1781, he received a commission as a lieutenant in the first battalion of the 71st Highland regiment, and was employed on garrison duty at New York and Charleston until the close of the war with the American colonies, when the regiment was transferred to Jamaica. On the 4th of June, 1784, he was placed on the half-pay list, and he returned to Scotland. In November, 1787, whilst residing with his mother at Oskamull, he was offered the appointment of eldest lieutenant in the 77th regiment, which was one of four regiments raised at that time for service in India. The appointment was obtained through the influence of general Allen Maclean, and was conditional on his raising a quota of fifteen recruits for the regiment. This condition was the customary practice when an officer was drawn from the half-pay list and placed on full pay. Macquarie endeavoured to raise the recruits in the Highlands and amongst the Macquaries of Ulva, but failed utterly, notwithstanding the influence and exertions of his relative, the old chief or Laird of Macquarie. He thereupon travelled on foot and by ferry from Oskamull to Greenoch, a distance of nearly one hundred miles. Thence he proceeded to Glasgow and Edinburgh, where he was successful in raising the required quota. An interesting side-light is thrown on the customs of the time by Macquarie's statement,* relating to the servant he enlisted for himself, that he "dresses hair remarkably well, waits table, and plays very well upon the Fiddle."
[* This statement is contained in one of the private journals of Governor Macquarie which are preserved in the Mitchell library at Sydney. From these journals, many of the facts in this introduction have been derived.]
Macquarie, with his recruits, joined the 77th regiment under colonel Marsh at Dover; his commission as lieutenant had been gazetted on the 25th of December, 1787. On the 28th of March, 1788, he embarked on the East Indiaman Dublin, and arrived at Bombay on the 3rd of August. The regiment remained in cantonments near Bombay until the 24th of November, 1790, and during this period (on the 9th of November, 1788) Macquarie was promoted to the rank of captain-lieutenant. In December, 1790, the regiment was removed to Tellicherry, and was employed in the campaign against Tippoo Sahib. In this campaign, Macquarie saw his first active service, and was present at the siege of Cannanore in December, 1790, and at the first siege of Seringapatam in February, 1792. On the 24th of December, 1790, he was appointed regimental paymaster. After peace was concluded with Tippoo Sahib, the 77th regiment returned to Bombay in April, 1792.
On the 2nd of August, 1793, Macquarie received a staff appointment, under Sir Robert Abercromby, as major of brigade of the troops serving on the coast of Malabar. By this appointment, his pay was increased sufficiently to enable him to wed, and on the 8th of September, 1793, he was married at Bombay to Miss Jane Jarvis, a daughter of Thomas Jarvis, formerly chief justice of Antigua. Miss Jarvis was possessed of moderate wealth in her own right, and Macquarie, before his marriage, had paid off the debts incurred at the time of receiving his commission, and had saved sufficient money to enable him to make a small settlement on his wife.
After his marriage, Macquarie remained at Bombay as major of brigade and regimental paymaster until December, 1794. During this period, he acquired as a staff officer his first experience of the intricacies of administration, and at the same time passed the happiest days of his life as a devoted husband. In December. 1794, the 77th regiment was transferred to Calicut on the coast of Malabar, and Macquarie with his wife accompanied the regiment.
In 1795, the armies of the French Republic conquered Holland. The Stadtholder, the Prince of Orange, fled to England; and the Batavian Republic was organised in close alliance with the Republic of France. The government in India then decided to seize and hold the Dutch settlement at Cochin on behalf of the Prince of Orange. A military expedition was organised and marched from Calicut in August of that year. Macquarie was employed in this campaign, and was absent from Calicut from the 19th of August to the 30th of October. This was the first occasion on which he was parted from his wife, and the devotion of the couple is clearly shown by the entries in his diary at this period. During the months of September and October, Macquarie was present at the siege of the Dutch fort at Cochin.
In November, 1795, Macquarie and his wife returned to Bombay. Mrs. Macquarie was ailing, and had developed symptoms of consumption. Shortly after their return, an expeditionary force was formed at Bengal for the seizure of the Dutch settlements in Ceylon, and on the 3rd of January, 1796, Macquarie sailed for Ceylon, leaving his sick wife in the care of her sister and friends. On the 5th of February, 1796, a landing was effected at Negombo, twenty-four miles north of the capital, and eleven days later the Dutch governor at Colombo capitulated. On the following day (17th February), Macquarie was sent in command of a detachment to take possession of the town and fort at Point de Galle. The Dutch garrison at Galle capitulated on the 23rd of February, and Macquarie became commandant of the town. For these services he was very highly complimented. In the meantime, he had received grave reports as to the state of his wife's health, and on the 19th of March he resigned his command at Galle to return to Bombay.
After his return to Bombay, Macquarie was informed that his wife's state of health was critical owing to the development of tuberculosis of the lungs. He was advised to take her for a sea voyage, and on the 18th of May, 1796, the devoted couple sailed on a voyage to China. The voyage did not have the desired effect of restoring her health, and Mrs. Macquarie died at Macao in China on the 15th of July, at the early age of twenty-three years and a half. Her death was a severe blow to Macquarie, and he gave many evidences of his devotion. He removed the body to Bombay, where burial took place on the 10th of January, 1797. He was a frequent visitor to her tomb during his subsequent periods of residence at Bombay, even after he had become engaged to his second wife. For four years and two months he continuously wore crêpe on his uniform, and during the same period maintained their house at Bombay, although generally unoccupied. His fondness for lengthy inscriptions, afterwards abundantly illustrated on the public buildings of New South Wales, was shown in the epitaph which he caused to be inscribed on the monument erected over his wife's grave.
By the death of his wife, Macquarie inherited the sum of six thousand pounds. A few years later, he expended this money in the part purchase of a portion of the Lochbuy estate in Mull, for which he paid £10,060. In memory of his wife, he named this land Jarvisfield. On his visit to Scotland during the year 1804, he formed plans for the erection of a country mansion, and the development of this estate by draining swamps and the erection of a village for crofters.
A commission bearing date 3rd of May, 1796, was granted to Macquarie as major by brevet in the 86th regiment. His military advancement continued, and he held several important posts. During the year 1797, he was in command of the first division of the right wing of the army in the campaign against Pyche Rajah. On the 19th of May in the same year, he was appointed to the staff of general James Stuart as major of brigade, and held this post until the year 1799. During this period, he was present at the battle of Sedaseer on the 6th of March, 1798, when Tippoo Sahib's army was defeated, and at the storming of Seringapatam on the 4th of May following, when Tippoo was killed. On the 4th of December, 1799, he resumed his former appointments as major of brigade and paymaster at Bombay. During April and May, 1800, he was a member of the suite, when governor Duncan visited Surat to form a constitution and government. On the 5th of May, he was offered and accepted the confidential position of military secretary on the staff of governor Duncan, which post he held until his departure for Egypt.
At the beginning of the year 1801, an expeditionary force, under the command of general (afterwards Sir) David Baird, was formed in India to proceed to Egypt, to assist in the expulsion of the French. On the 1st of April, Macquarie was appointed deputy adjutant-general on Baird's staff, and five days later sailed from Bombay on the ship William. On the 13th of June, the disembarkation of the expedition was commenced at Cosseir. In the meantime, news had been received of the landing of the grand army under Sir Ralph Abercromby at Aboukir on the 8th of March. By the appointment of another officer as deputy adjutant-general. Macquarie had been superseded, but he remained on Baird's staff. During the march of the expedition across the desert to the river Nile, Macquarie was stationed at Cosseir and entrusted with the superintendence of disembarking and forwarding stores. This work was completed, and on the 27th of July he crossed the desert to Kenné on the Nile, where he embarked and sailed down the river. After stopping a few days at Cairo, he arrived at Rosetta on the 30th of August, the day on which the French garrison at Alexandria had agreed to surrender. On the 2nd of September, he was present at the formal capitulation. On the 7th of November, Macquarie's abilities were recognised by his appointment as deputy adjutant-general on the staff of the Earl of Cavan in command of all the armies in Egypt. In consequence of this appointment, a commission as lieutenant-colonel, bearing the same date, was granted to Macquarie two years later (17th November, 1803). He continued on staff duty until the 12th of May, 1802, when he quitted headquarters at Alexandria and embarked at Suez for Bombay twelve days later, with the Indian expeditionary force.
Whilst in Egypt he learnt that his commission to an effective majority in the 86th regiment had been gazetted on the 15th January, 1801, and on his return to Bombay on the 2nd of July, 1802, he assumed the command of that regiment. He was also re-appointed military secretary on the staff of his friend and patron, governor Duncan. His sojourn in India was short, and on the 15th of November he resigned the command of his regiment in order to visit England. On the 5th of January, 1803, he resigned also his appointment as military secretary, and on the following day sailed for England on the East Indiaman Sir Edward Hughes.
During this first period of service in the Indian army, Macquarie had risen from the rank of senior lieutenant in the 77th regiment to that of major and commanding officer in the 86th. He had held several important staff appointments, and had become fully conversant with the details of the administration of government in India. He had arrived in the empire as a subaltern, indebted to his uncle for money expended in obtaining his outfit and commission; on the eve of his departure, he estimated that he was worth £14,000 in lands and money, apart from the legacy of £6,000 bequeathed to him by his wife.
Macquarie landed at Brighton in England on the 7th of May, 1803. He carried despatches from governor Duncan at Bombay, in which he was warmly commended for his services and knowledge of Indian affairs. He was well received at the war office, and by the board of control and the directors of the East India company. He was presented at Court "on his return from India", and was invited to dine with the board of directors of the company, a somewhat unusual honour.
Macquarie was not long in idleness in London. War had been declared with France, and on the 7th of July he was offered, by direction of Lord Hobart, an appointment as one of three officers on a military mission to Portugal to inquire into and report on the condition of the army of that country. In spite of strong pressure to induce him to accept, Macquarie declined the offer on account of his ignorance of the Portuguese language. Eleven days later he was appointed to the headquarters staff as assistant adjutant-general for the district of London, under the command of the Earl of Harrington.
Macquarie retained his staff appointment in London until April, 1805. During this period he became a typical courtier. He was frequently in attendance on the Earl of Harrington at reviews and inspections. He attended courts and levees, and indulged in the usual social routine of a staff officer in London. He was commanded to dine with the Prince of Wales, H.R.H. the Duke of Clarence, and other members of the royal family, and in January, 1805, his appointment as an aide-de-camp to the King was under consideration. He was elected a member of several exclusive associations, and it is clear that his career was assured when the opportunity occurred.
In June, 1804, he obtained two months' leave of absence in order to visit his aged mother at Oskamull, whom he had not seen for seventeen years. During his visit to Scotland, he met his future wife, and on the 26th of March, 1805, shortly before leaving England, he became engaged to Elizabeth Henrietta Campbell, the youngest daughter of his second cousin, John Campbell, of Airds. At the same time, it was arranged that the marriage should not take place until after Macquarie's return to England.
In March, 1805, Macquarie was ordered to return to India to take command of the 86th regiment, which was without a field officer. On the 25th of April, he embarked at Portsmouth for Bombay, where he arrived on the 11th of August. He assumed command of the regiment, and his old friend, governor Duncan, again appointed him military secretary whilst he was stationed at Bombay. On the 1st of June, 1805, his appointment as lieutenant-colonel of the 73rd regiment appeared in the London Gazette.
Towards the end of the year 1805, a campaign against Holkar was commenced, and for the last time Macquarie was engaged on field service. In December, he took command of the frontier station at Dohud, where he remained until it was evacuated on the 22nd of January, 1806. Four weeks later he returned to Bombay and resumed his duties as military secretary to the governor. Governor Duncan had decided to leave India at the beginning of the year 1808, and Macquarie had agreed to travel to England with him; the latter's anxiety, however, to return to his fiancee induced him to obtain a release from his engagement, and on the 19th of March, 1807, he left Bombay for Bussorah to travel by overland route to England. From Bussorah he journeyed by water to Bagdad, by caravan to the Caspian sea, across Russia, by boat to Yarmouth, and arrived in London on the 17th of October, 1807.
After his return to England, Macquarie was married to his second wife, Miss Campbell, and he took command of the 73rd regiment, which was quartered in Scotland.
In the year 1808, the Peninsula War was commenced, and public attention was concentrated on the war and the struggle against Napoleon in other parts of Europe. In the month of September, the news of the usurpation of the government in New South Wales and the arrest of Governor Bligh was received in London. The report at first caused scanty comment; but in a few weeks Viscount Castlereagh decided to appoint a successor to Governor Bligh, and to send a regiment to the colony to relieve the New South Wales Corps. In December, the appointment as governor was offered to and accepted by brigadier-general Nightingall, who had recently returned from service in the opening campaign of the Peninsula War. About the same time, choice was made of the 73rd regiment under the command of Macquarie as the proposed relief for the New South Wales Corps.
Preparations for their departure were pushed forward by both Nightingall and Macquarie. Nightingall busied himself in details of administration, and in March, 1809, selected Ellis Bent as the new judge-advocate for the colony. In the same month, Macquarie was superintending the arrangements for the embarkation of his regiment on the Hindostan, man-of-war, and the Dromedary, naval store-ship. In the midst of the preparations, Nightingall was taken ill, and about the middle of April it was realised that it would be impossible for him to undertake the government. A new governor was required, and at the end of the month Viscount Castlereagh had given the appointment to Lachlan Macquarie. His formal commission and instructions as captain-general and governor-in-chief were dated the 8th and 9th of May, 1809.
It is evident that the appointment of Lachlan Macquarie (then lieutenant-colonel) as governor of New South Wales was entirely due to the accidents of life. Nightingall and the 73rd regiment had been chosen to re-establish an authorised government in the colony. Macquarie as commanding officer of the regiment was practically second in command to Nightingall. The embarkation of the regiment was intended to take place within a few days, when it was announced that Nightingall's health prohibited his assuming his duties as governor. Little time was available to select a substitute, and it was not unnatural that the choice fell on Lachlan Macquarie, the virtual second in command. Macquarie's commission was dated the day after the regiment had actually embarked at Yarmouth. At the same time it must be remembered that Macquarie had influence in high quarters; he had considerable experience of administrative duties in India; his knowledge of Indian affairs had been commended by governor Duncan, of Bombay; his extended staff service had developed habits of tact, courtesy and caution in his dealings with his fellow-men; he was possessed of independent means, and was unlikely to make use of his position for his pecuniary advancement; and in minor posts, at Galle and Kohud, he had been commended for his administrative capacity.
The appointment of Macquarie no doubt appeared an excellent one according to opinions prevalent at the time, for the English government had not realised that something more was required in the governor of the colony than the mere qualifications of a service administrator, and that a good naval or military officer had many shortcomings when given arbitrary power over a civil community.
Macquarie embarked on the Dromedary, and in company with the Hindostan sailed from St. Helens on the 22nd of May, 1809. After a tedious voyage, the two ships entered Port Jackson on the 28th of December following, but owing to adverse winds it was two days later before anchor was cast in Sydney Cove. On the following morning. Sunday, the 31st of December. Macquarie made his official landing, and was received with due formality by lieutenant-governor Paterson and lieutenant-colonel Foveaux. His commission was read on the following day, and Macquarie assumed the administration.
Macquarie's government was commenced under the most favourable auspices. For the first time, the governor-in-chief held in his own hands the executive command of the colony and the military command of the troops. By this means the old antagonism between the executive and military powers was modified. This antagonism had been the principal factor in causing unrest and discontent in the colony since the days of Governor Phillip.
He carried with him orders for the recall of the New South Wales Corps. This regiment and its partisans had become the dominant factor in the colony, and its influence had been usually detrimental to the general interests. Its officers constituted the majority in the criminal courts. All ranks had been permitted to indulge in trade, and many of its officers had acquired considerable wealth by traffic in land and spirits. During two periods, 1793-1795 and 1808-1809, its officers had held the executive power, and had exercised it almost entirely in the personal interests of themselves and their partisans. The mere fact of being the dominant party during a term of nearly twenty years had given the leaders of the regiment their enormous influence. By the recall of the regiment, this power was broken.
John Macarthur had sailed for England in the Admiral Gambier. He had been the most turbulent individual opponent of the executive power. His adverse influence was recognised in England, and his return to the colony was prohibited by the secretary of state until September, 1817.
The English government realised that a change in the form of the administration was necessary. The system based on the fundamental principles of a military occupation was no longer tenable, and it was necessary to formulate a new constitution, giving extended powers and rights to the civil community. Macquarie carried instructions to examine and report on the necessity for a re-constitution of the law courts. Further, the English government was ready to commence reforms and acted promptly on the report of the select committee of the House of Commons and on Macquarie's reports in many instances.
The small settlers, the emancipists, and the expirees were beginning to assert their rights, and the removal of the dominance of the military enabled Macquarie to do some justice to this class.
Under these circumstances, Macquarie commenced his administration. He was energetic, and did not spare himself in his desire to obtain a personal knowledge of the country, as is shown by his two visits to Tasmania and his various tours of inspection in New South Wales. He was far-seeing in so far as he recognised the future possibilities of the colony. His administration was vigorous, but was marred by an ill-regulated judgment. He created the first Australian "boom" by the lavish expenditure of public money, which was followed by the inevitable reaction after his departure.
Macquarie's far-sighted policy had two main objects—the material development of the country, and the reinstatement of the emancipists and expirees to a position in the civil life of the colony. But in the pursuit of both these objects, he showed the want of a well-balanced judgment.
He developed the country by encouraging exploration, by improving the means of communication, and by the laying out of towns. His encouragement of exploration has had far-reaching effects. He sent G.W. Evans and John Oxley on expeditions, which opened up the western watershed of New South Wales; but the credit due to him for these results was diminished by his extraordinary neglect in making due acknowledgment to G. Blaxland, W. Lawson, and W. C. Wentworth for their strenuous exertions in a private capacity in discovering the practicable route across the Blue Mountains. The improvement of the means of communication was a much-needed labour, which had been greatly neglected by his predecessors. Macquarie constructed roads in all the settled districts, and made the western districts accessible, soon after they were discovered, by making a road across the mountains. These roads proved an incalculable boon to the colonists. He selected sites for towns and laid them out according to well-considered plans, but in the development of these towns his judgment failed him. It was impossible to foresee the requirements of any town, and the erection of large and substantial buildings, before the necessity for such buildings was evident, was a distinct error of judgment. Commissioner J. T. Bigge, in his report to the House of Commons on the state of New South Wales, stated, "It has been his (Macquarie's) misfortune to mistake the improvement and embellishment of the towns for proofs of the solid prosperity of the colonists, and to forget that the labour, by which these objects have been procured, was a source of heavy expense to the British Treasury, and that other means of employment might have been tried and resorted to, the effect of which would have been to regulate in a cheaper and less ostentatious form the progress of colonization and of punishment." Macquarie erected more than two hundred buildings for public purposes in the colony, many of which bore the inscription "L. Macquarie, Esq., Governor". This inscription was generally so conspicuous that it seemed to imply a personal vanity and a desire on the part of the governor to perpetuate his name. Many of the buildings were of doubtful utility, and were built in anticipation of the expected growth of a town, which in several cases did not grow. It is certain that Macquarie wasted a large amount of convict labour on these buildings, instead of employing it in the formation of agricultural settlements in various parts of the colony, which would have conferred a permanent and lasting benefit. In fact, Macquarie devoted his attentions chiefly to the material and visible improvement of the colony,* and practically left the development of its primary industries and the pioneering experimental work to individuals undirected by the fostering care of government.
[* Governor Macquarie formed only two penal agricultural settlements, one at Emu Plains and one at Port Macquarie.]
Prior to Macquarie's arrival, the dominance of the military party had been complete, and this party had made every endeavour to prevent the intrusion of the class of emancipists and expirees into the respectable walks of life. With the downfall of the military party, this class had asserted their claims, and Macquarie was far too just to refuse to restore to their former rank in society those who had been convicted of trivial offences, and whose subsequent good conduct had been unquestionable. Macquarie quickly realised the justice of the claims of the emancipists and expirees, and commenced to forward their interests with all his powers. The adoption of this policy was approved by Earl Bathurst** and by the select committee of the House of Commons. Macquarie, having decided on the policy, made serious errors in giving effect to it. In an arbitrary manner, he endeavoured to force the society of certain emancipists, whom he had selected for special favour, on persons who were resentful of the intrusion. He made four appointments of ex-convicts to the magistracy. He endeavoured to force the judge-advocate and judge to grant permission to ex-convicts to practise as attorneys before the governor's and supreme courts. Both of these administrative acts met with the disapproval of the secretary of state. He attempted to introduce to general society several ex-convicts, whom he had selected for preferment, but he failed entirely in this object. The general result of Macquarie's policy with regard to the emancipists and expirees was to widen the breach between them and the inhabitants who had arrived free in the colony.***
[** See page 134 (volume VIII.)] [*** See introduction to volume IX. (PART II.)]
Macquarie's character was in many ways contradictory. He was honest and straightforward in all his administrative acts, yet on two occasions at least he neglected to make conscientious reports to the secretary of state, viz., when the crossing of the Blue Mountains was successfully accomplished by G. Blaxland, W. Lawson, and W. C. Wentworth, and when he had been compelled to grant compensation to the contractors erecting the general hospital for breaches of contract committed by himself.* He was courteous and politic, yet he was intolerant of opposition. He was punctilious in his own conduct, demanding similar conduct in others, and resenting keenly any actual or imaginary slight, such as the neglect of the judge-advocate to stand on the governor's entry into church. He was pompous, ambitious, and fond of ostentation and display. He was a man of great decision of character and of good understanding. But in action his judgment was ill-balanced, and he was inclined to take hasty action and to push matters to extremes. He was strictly honourable, and no imputations of self-interested motives were alleged against his administration, such as had been made against his immediate predecessors. He was a good husband, and a God-fearing man, and the motto of his family, "Turris fortis mihi deus", was typical of the motives which actuated his life and administration.
[* See note 66. (volume VIII.)]
During his government of the colony, he received military promotion. On the 5th of July, 1810, he was made colonel, on the 21st of February, 1811, brigadier-general, and on the 4th of June, 1813, major-general.
It was not unnatural that the vigorous administration of Governor Macquarie caused considerable opposition. Representations adverse to his government were made to the secretary of state. At first these reports had little effect, but they increased in virulence and force. During the year 1817, Earl Bathurst criticised severely the administration of the colony in four despatches to the governor. After these comments were received, Macquarie tendered his resignation in a despatch dated 1st December, 1817, but no immediate action was taken. On the 27th of December, 1818, the Honourable H. Grey Bennet, M.P., wrote a letter which was published in pamphlet form. In this letter, Macquarie's conduct was criticised and condemned. At length, the English government decided to take action, and John Thomas Bigge was appointed a commissioner, and received instructions, dated 6th January, 1819, to inquire into the general state of the colony. But before Bigge had presented his report on the 6th of May, 1822, Macquarie had been recalled, and major-general Sir Thomas Brisbane, K.C.B., had arrived in the colony, and superseded Macquarie in the government on the 1st of December, 1821. Macquarie was loath to leave the scenes where he had ruled as a virtual dictator for eleven years and eleven months. For several weeks, he made a progress through the settled districts, and received almost universal expressions of regret for his approaching departure. At the instance of D'Arcy Wentworth, the principal surgeon, and John Piper, the naval officer, he was presented with a gold cup of the value of one hundred and fifty guineas, subscribed by the colonists. He sailed from the colony in February, 1822, and two years after his arrival in London he died at Duke-street, St. James, on the 1st of July, 1824. He was buried in a mausoleum on the island of Mull. He had one son, who died without issue.
Notes on Governor Macquarie's administration will be found in
the introductions to volumes IX [PART II.] and X [PART
[Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. IX: Introduction]
GOVERNOR MACQUARIE administered the government of New South Wales for eleven years and eleven months (1810-1821). During this period the growth and development of the colony was extraordinary. In 1810 settlement was practically confined within the boundaries of the county of Cumberland, exclusive of the settlements at Newcastle, at Norfolk island, and in Tasmania. In 1821 settlement had been extended in the west beyond Bathurst, in the south to the districts of Illawarra and Argyle, and in the north in various localities as far as Port Macquarie. The population had increased from 11,950 in March, 1810, to 38,778 in October, 1821, both inclusive of the military. Between the same dates, the cattle had increased from 12,442 to 102,939, sheep from 35,888 to 290,158, horses from 1,134 to 4,564. In 1810 the port duties collected at Port Jackson did not exceed £8,000; at the end of Macquarie's administration they amounted to between £28,000 and £30,000 per annum. During this period, methods and ideas had to be adapted to the altered conditions; the voice of public opinion asserted itself; the English government was compelled to listen to the desires and to consult the interests of a rapidly increasing class of colonists, who had made their homes and had acquired vested interests in the colony; and no longer was the English government enabled to regard the colony simply as the receptacle for the undesirables from other parts of the British empire.
Prior to the arrival of Macquarie, there had been virtually two paramount powers in the colony, the governor and the military party. The governor had been endowed with almost unlimited powers by his commission and by colonial customs and precedents. The military party, consisting of the New South Wales Corps and its adherents, had acquired a dominant interest by long residence in the colony, by the binding power of common interests, and from the fact that its members had naturally gained prestige in a community consisting of persons most of whom were or had been under the sentence of the law. The antagonism and jealousy that were only to be expected between the two paramount powers had in many cases been prejudicial to the interests of the colony; but at the same time the military party had acted as a check on the exercise of too great arbitrariness by a governor, notably during the administration of Governor King.
When he arrived in the colony, Macquarie was accompanied by the 73rd regiment, and carried orders for the recall of the New South Wales Corps. By the removal of this corps, Macquarie was left a clear field for the introduction of a well-considered system for the development of the colony, as there was no longer an organised body to thwart the measures of the governor. For many years he possessed the unqualified confidence and unstinted support of the English government; when he experienced difficulty with a regiment, the regiment was removed; when he was involved in a quarrel with the judge-advocate and judge, orders were given promptly for the recall of both. He had an almost unlimited supply of convict labour at his disposal. He had the control of the public purse, and, although his lavish expenditure was constantly the subject of criticism by the secretary of state, no active measures were taken to limit it by the English government. His powers were enormous. The validity of the colonial custom of issuing government and general orders was not challenged until some years after his arrival, and even after they were questioned their promulgation was continued. By these orders, the governor could control trade, could impose customs duties, could inflict penalties, and generally could pass enactments which had all the force of law. His influence over the individual in all classes was likewise large owing to his powers of preferment, as he could make land grants, give various indulgences, assign useful or useless servants to settlers, grant pardons, and remit sentences.
When he arrived in the colony, Macquarie found that the rule of a governor was virtually, to quote the words of J. H. Bent, "quod gubernatori placet, legis habet vigorem". This maxim probably pleased Macquarie's vanity, and he endeavoured to maintain it throughout his lengthy administration. In the early years, whilst his attention was devoted chiefly to the material development of the colony in the construction of roads and the erection of necessary public buildings, the unfettered decision of the governor was of great value. But later, when it was necessary to develop the social, judicial, and economic fabrics of the colony, the obsession of this maxim led Macquarie into serious blunders, such as his actions with regard to emancipists, his attempts to control the law courts, his flogging of free persons without any magisterial inquiry, his court martial of the Reverend Benjamin Vale, and his granting of a charter to the bank of New South Wales.
When he arrived in the colony, Macquarie found the administration in a state of chaos owing to the deposition of Governor Bligh; the public works neglected; the emancipists and free settlers dissatisfied; the system of public credit disorganised; a rising feeling against the judicial administration; and the convict system ill regulated. He found the colony rapidly emerging from infancy to adolescence, and, in fact, he found it necessary to re-create the administrative, social, economic, and judicial frameworks of the colony. Although he had the experience of the previous twenty-two years to assist him in framing his systems, and an undaunted personal determination, it is probable that his ill-balanced judgment prevented his personal influence from achieving any substantial improvement except the purely material development of the colony, and the initiation of a financial and economic system.
He commenced his government by revoking all the acts of the insurrectionary administrators and by reinstating the officials who had been in office at the time of the arrest of Governor Bligh. Subsequently, in accordance with the discretionary power given to him by the secretary of state, he confirmed* most of the land grants and pardons so revoked. His public works policy has been already discussed,** and it is necessary first to consider what might be called his social policy, as it had considerable influence over his entire administration.
[* See notes 66 and 99, volume VII] [** See pages xv and xvi, volume VIII.]
Within a fortnight of his arrival in the colony, Governor Macquarie had committed himself to a policy for the encouragement of emancipists and expirees, which depended on the maxim that the fact of a person having once been a convict was no bar to his re-admission into society or to his appointment to the higher judicial and official positions in the colony. Prior to this date (1810), all persons, with two exceptions, belonging to the emancipist and expiree classes had been rigidly excluded from general society. The exceptions were G. B. Bellasis and the Reverend Henry Fulton; the former, an officer in the East India Company's service, had been transported for killing his opponent in a duel, and had held command of the governor's bodyguard under King; the latter had been sentenced for complicity in the Irish rebellion, and had acted as chaplain to Governor Bligh and his household. For twenty-two years a rigid barrier had been raised between all who had arrived free in the colony and those who had been landed under a sentence of the law. It is evident therefore that Macquarie, in adopting this policy, attempted a revolutionary change in the social conditions of the colony. The policy was "recommended more by motives of humanity than of reason, and (was) as new as it was hazardous."*** It caused a storm of opposition, which was due not so much to the humanitarian principle involved, as to Macquarie's methods of attempting to procure its general acceptance.
[*** See first report by J. T. Bigge, page 83.)]
Governor Macquarie assumed the administration on the 1st of January, 1810, and eleven days later he appointed Andrew Thompson, an ex-convict, as a magistrate at the Hawkesbury. With little practical knowledge of the colonial conditions, and without any attempt to educate public opinion up to the change in the social system that was thereby initiated, Macquarie took the drastic step of giving to an ex-convict the highest distinction which he had in his power to bestow. Thompson had been transported in 1790 for setting fire to a stack, when in his seventeenth year. When his sentence had expired, he had settled at the Green Hills (Windsor), had engaged in business as a retail shopkeeper, and had built small vessels, with which he traded to Sydney. He had been remarkably successful in amassing wealth, and, when Macquarie arrived, lieutenant-colonel Foveaux recommended him "as an individual and an active and intelligent chief constable". Macquarie stated that his reasons for making the appointment were Thompson's loyalty to the cause of Governor Bligh, the scarcity of men at the Hawkesbury eligible for the magistracy, and a desire to restore Thompson to that rank in society which he had lost. These reasons are of little value, when it is remembered that Macquarie could have selected the officer in military command at Windsor for the magisterial duties, and that, as Thompson's rank in society before his conviction had been exceedingly humble, his elevation to the bench of magistrates, instead of restoring him to an equal rank, raised him to a higher one. But in making the appointment Macquarie forgot that "some consideration was surely due to the feelings of those magistrates, as well as that society, who, with the knowledge they possessed of his (Thompson's) recent situation, could not but regard the unsolicited return of this lost member to his rank and place amongst them as a degradation of their own."* This appointment and a similar one given to another ex-convict, Simeon Lord, on the 3rd of August, 1810, brought forth a strong protest from the Reverend Samuel Marsden, on account of the character of the persons appointed; and, when Macquarie, about the same time, attempted to associate Marsden with Lord and Thompson as trustees of the public roads, he was met with Marsden's prompt refusal to accept such office with the co-trustees nominated.
[* See first report of J. T. Bigge, page 82.]
Macquarie's new policy and his appointments to the magistracy met with universal criticism. Macquarie, however, was extremely intolerant of opposition, and it is probable that this intolerance and an ill-balanced judgment led him to make serious mistakes in the elaboration and execution of a policy, which on calmer consideration he would have perhaps avoided. The humanitarian principle of his policy was generally recognised and accepted; it was approved by the secretary of state,** and endorsed by a select committee of the House of Commons in 1812. But although the principle was correct, it is extremely doubtful whether the time had then arrived for its promulgation; and Macquarie's first attempts to raise members of an excluded class to the highest positions in the land, and to introduce them to the most exclusive class at that period, the military, were too revolutionary to succeed. Macquarie was also singularly unfortunate in his choice of the individuals for preferment.
[** See page 134, volume VIII.]
After the elevation of Thompson and Lord to the magistracy, they were introduced to the society of government house, and were invited to the mess of the 73rd regiment; but their social advancement was not effected. Macquarie failed to realise that his patronage alone could not secure the general acceptance of an individual, and that men whom he chose to invite to his table might be considered by private individuals unfit associates on account of their morals and personal character. He made no attempt to conciliate the opposition to his measure, and failed to recognise "the evils of resistance in quarters where co-operation was necessary". In this failure, he materially contributed to the opposition which developed against his policy and administration in other spheres.
At an early period, Governor Macquarie selected assistant surgeon William Redfern for special preference. Redfern had been transported for complicity in the mutiny at the Nore. He was possessed of considerable professional abilities, but his manner was self-assertive and was resented by the class to which Macquarie attempted to introduce him. He was invited to government house, and through Macquarie's influence to the mess of the 73rd regiment, and later to that of the 46th regiment; but this had little effect on his social status. When the 48th regiment arrived, he was introduced by Macquarie to its officers, and, in the company of brigade-major Antill, he called on each of them, but with four exceptions they refused to return his call. When he was invited to the mess by lieutenant-colonel Erskine, many of the junior officers abruptly left the table; to obviate such action in future, Erskine made it a rule of the mess that no officer should leave the table until the first thirds were drank.
Governor Macquarie encouraged the presence of five other ex-convicts at government house. They were the Reverend Henry Fulton, James Meehan, the deputy surveyor, Richard Fitzgerald, a superintendent, Michael Robinson, confidential clerk in the secretary's office, and Francis Howard Greenway, the architect. Of these, Robinson received special notice of Macquarie's favour. He had been transported in 1798 for writing a threatening letter to Mr. James Oldham.* After Macquarie's arrival he was appointed chief clerk in the office of the governor's secretary, and as such fulfilled the confidential duty of transcribing the governor's despatches. On the occasions of the birthdays of their Majesties, he was invited to government house and permitted to recite to the assembled company odes of his own composition.
[* See note 193, volume II.]
The results of Macquarie's endeavours to introduce ex-convicts into general society were aptly summarised by Mr. Commissioner Bigge.**
[** See first report of J. T. Bigge, page 150.]
"The elevation of these persons to a rank in society, which they never possessed and for which, without meaning any reflection upon them, their manners gave them no kind of claim, has not been productive to them of the benefits that were contemplated.
"It was in vain for Governor Macquarie to assemble them, even on public occasions at government house, or to point them out to the especial notice and favour of strangers, or to favour them with particular marks of his own attention upon those occasions, if they still continued to be shunned or disregarded by the rest of the company.
"With the exception of the Reverend Mr. Fulton, and, on some occasions, of Mr. Redfern, I never observed that the other persons of this class participated in the general attentions of the company.
"Although the emancipated convicts, whom he has selected from their class, are persons who generally bear a good character in New South Wales, yet that opinion of them is by no means universal. Those however, who entertained a good opinion, would have proved it by their notice.. .. and those, who entertained a different opinion, would not have contracted an aversion to the principle of their introduction from being obliged to witness what they considered to be an indiscreet and erroneous application of it."
It is clear that Governor Macquarie's endeavours to introduce ex-convicts into general society were defeated largely by his own methods. His attempts to restore them to full civil rights were only a qualified success. Notwithstanding the criticism of the appointments of Thompson and Lord to the magistracy, Macquarie made two further appointments of ex-convicts to the bench, in the persons of the Reverend Henry Fulton and William Redfern. Of these four appointments, Mr. Commissioner Bigge reported* that they "were unnecessary, that they produced no good effect upon the parties themselves, and that they have lowered the respect and estimation of the magisterial office." Subsequently Redfern's name was omitted from the new commission, which Macquarie was directed to issue on the accession of King George IV; Simeon Lord was allowed to resign prior to the issue of the new commission, whilst Andrew Thompson had died nine months after his appointment. Least exception was taken to the elevation of the Reverend Henry Fulton to the bench.
[* See first report of J. T. Bigge, page 89.]
When the new charter was promulgated in 1814, by which new civil courts were established, Governor Macquarie, in furtherance of his policy, attempted to force the judge-advocate and judge to adopt the principle that a previous conviction was no bar to the admission of an attorney to the practice in the colonial courts. This led to a bitter controversy** between the governor and the judge, J. H. Bent. Bent refused to adopt Macquarie's proposals, and adjourned the sittings of the supreme court until a reference could be made to England. The secretary of state did not support Macquarie in his advocacy of this principle, and refused to sanction its adoption. Nevertheless, Macquarie still continued his attempt to procure the admission of ex-convicts to an official position in the courts, and in 1817 appointed Simeon Lord a member of the supreme court bench, and a little later Richard Fitzgerald a member of the governor's court which was held at Windsor.
[** See page 479 et seq., volume VIII.]
In the establishment of the bank of New South Wales and in the proposed formation of an agricultural society, Governor Macquarie attempted to secure full rights for ex-convicts. In the formation of the bank, he desired that all classes should co-operate, especially as some ex-convicts were among the most opulent in the colony, and that all classes should be represented in its direction and management. When the election of directors for the bank was under consideration, it became known that a conditionally emancipated convict, Edward Eagar, was to be nominated for office by William Redfern; whereupon four out of six proposed directors refused to accept office if Eagar was elected. The subscribers accordingly made it a rule of the bank that no person was eligible as a director unless he was absolutely and unconditionally free. Macquarie had to accept this regulation, and shortly afterwards soothed Eagar's disappointment by granting him an absolute pardon.
Macquarie prevented the formation of an agricultural society by stating his desire that its membership should be open to all classes of the community. This was impracticable, as it was probable that ex-convicts would have been excluded under the system of ballot that was proposed for the election of members.
Macquarie carried his policy of encouraging emancipists to such extremes that it became proverbial in the colony that "the surest claim to his favour and confidence was that of having once worn the badge of conviction for felony."*
[* See first report of J. T. Bigge, page 147]
In spite of all Macquarie's efforts, little was achieved in removing the barrier which was raised around the emancipists and expirees. Mr. Commissioner Bigge stated that only one instance was known of the wife of an emancipist being admitted to the society of the wives of military officers, but he added, "it has generally been thought that such instances would have been more numerous, if Governor Macquarie had allowed every person to have followed the dictates of their own judgment."**
[** See first report of J. T. Bigge, page 150.]
It is probable that Governor Macquarie's emancipist policy was conceived in haste and elaborated afterwards; that in the year 1810 certain ex-convicts had been emancipated, by servitude or pardon, for a sufficient period to justify by their subsequent good conduct their claim for a modification of their rigid exclusion from the respectable walks of life; that this class began to assert its claims, when encouraged by Macquarie's appointment of one of their number to the magistracy; that Macquarie recognised the justice in part of these claims; that he utterly failed in achieving his object owing to the ill-advised methods he adopted, although he won the gratitude of the large class he had befriended; and that the net result was exasperation and disappointment to the entire class of emancipists and expirees.
In fact, Macquarie's policy did more harm than good, and had the effect of strengthening instead of removing the barrier between the two classes, the free population and the emancipists and expirees. J. T. Bigge, in 1822, reported that the prejudices of the free population were then "too deeply fixed to be removed; and the ambitious feelings of the higher classes of emancipated convicts have been too long encouraged and cherished to expect from them either submission or conciliation. Governor Macquarie has thus left to his successor the difficult and, I may even add, the hopeless task of bringing back, to their proper and just standard, the pretensions of two large classes of the inhabitants of New South Wales, without giving to the one party a supposed ground of triumph, and without inflicting upon the other too large a measure of vexation and disgrace."*
[* Ibid., page 154.]
Macquarie's treatment of the free settlers and his interference with social activities were arbitrary and non-conciliatory. At an early date he conceived a dislike for the settlers from England, who had arrived free, and he developed a decided preference for settlers from the emancipist class.** Macquarie had some justice in criticising adversely some of the free settlers, as a large number were of a poor type, and had come to the colony in the hope of bettering themselves after they had failed in England. On the other hand, such good settlers as did arrive found it difficult to obtain the labour necessary for farming pursuits. Macquarie's passion for the erection of public buildings absorbed the best labourers amongst the convicts, and, when the settlers applied for assigned labour, it was practically impossible to obtain builders, blacksmiths or other mechanics, who would be useful on their farms. The free settlers experienced also many difficulties from Macquarie's intolerance of opposition and from his sympathies with the class of emancipists.
[** See page 598, volume VII.]
Three instances may be quoted of the governor's arbitrary treatment of free persons.
In the year 1816, a memorial from a number of colonists was transmitted to the House of Commons, which represented certain grievances* against the administration of Macquarie. The governor thereupon took the severe step of refusing all land grants and indulgences to the alleged signatories. For this action he was severely censured by Earl Bathurst,** who stated that it had a tendency to check the undoubted right of a subject to petition parliament. Macquarie, in his defence,*** stated that the petition contained malicious representations, and he was justified in withholding indulgences from those "who dared to asperse my personal honor and Government". This was typical of Macquarie's attitude on many occasions, for he was frequently unable to perceive that the person criticised often cannot gauge the value of the criticism, and that an attempt to expose the abuse of authority by himself was not an act of sedition on the part of the complainant.
[* See page 329 et seq. and page 732 et seq.] [** See page 762.] [*** See despatch marked "No. 1 of 1819", dated 1st March, 1819.] (all volume IX.)
In the year 1816, Philip Connor, who had been a lieutenant in the 73rd regiment, and had been convicted of manslaughter,**** returned to the colony for the purposes of marriage. Macquarie had not approved of the lenient verdict given by the criminal court in Connor's case, and rightly considered Connor an undesirable immigrant. He accordingly compelled him to enter into a bond to leave the colony by the ship in which he arrived. As this ship sailed before the ordinary banns of marriage could be published, Connor was prevented from fulfilling his marriage contract, as Macquarie refused to grant a special license.
[**** See page 7 et seq., volume VIII.]
In the year 1816 also, Macquarie ordered the corporal punishment* of two ex-convicts and one free immigrant for trespass on the government domain at Sydney. These punishments were inflicted merely on the reports of constables and without any magisterial inquiry, and were a deliberate breach of the civil rights of the subject.
[* See page 734 et seq. and note 162. (volume IX.)]
When reports of these occurrences and of Macquarie's preference for emancipists reached England, it is little wonder that the better type of free settlers was disinclined to go to the colony; and the free settlers already in the colony might be afraid of being subjected to an arbitrary act of the governor. It is certain that Macquarie's influence had a decided effect, and towards the close of his government free immigration was somewhat restricted.
The policy of Governor Macquarie with regard to the financial and economic affairs of the colony was good, and materially assisted in its advancement.
The powers of the governor over trade and commerce were supreme. By the colonial custom of issuing general orders, he could regulate the currency; establish specie values; fix the rate of interest, the prices of commodities, and the rates of wages; impose export and import duties; and control monopolies.
When Macquarie arrived in the colony, there was no legalised currency or specie, and the internal trade suffered from the want of a proper medium of exchange. The internal trade of the colony depended chiefly on the demand of government for supplies of grain and meat. When these were lodged in the public stores, store receipts were issued, which were consolidated at stated periods by bills on the English treasury. These bills were eagerly sought by merchants and others, who were desirous of making remittances to England. Prior to consolidation, the store receipts passed from hand to hand as the equivalent of money in the ordinary course of business. Their use, however, brought disadvantages to the small settler. Owing to the want of small change, he was compelled to lodge his receipt with the retail storekeeper or publican for purchases made, and, until the value of the receipt was exhausted, it induced improvidence and extravagance on the part of the settler. To obviate the want of small change, it had become the practice to issue small notes of hand for sums as low as threepence. So long as the issue of these notes was made by persons of probity, no evils were experienced; but the ease with which these notes were placed in circulation induced many to take pecuniary advantage of the system. The methods of effecting this were described by Macquarie in a despatch to Earl Bathurst.* Macquarie quickly realised the evil influences on the colonial trade of the want of a legalised circulating medium. On the 30th of June, 1810, he issued a proclamation,** regulating the issue of currency notes, and in his third despatch in 1810,*** he sought permission to establish a government loan bank with the power to issue notes. This proposal was not entertained by the committee of the privy council for trade and plantations, but at the same time it was decided to send £10,000 worth of dollars to the colony to alleviate the distress caused by the want of currency. When these dollars were received by Macquarie in 1812, he decided to partially re-mint them, and to make a specie peculiar to the colony, in order to conserve it for local use. Each dollar, worth five shillings, was converted**** into a "holey dollar" and a "dump" with colonial values of five shillings and one shilling and threepence respectively. These coins were put in circulation in the year 1814 through the agency of the commissariat department,***** and considerably relieved the specie difficulty.
[* See page 216. (volume IX.)] [**See note 54. (volume IX.)] [*** See page 265, volume VII.] [**** See page 750 et seq., volume VII.] [***** See page 333, volume VIII.]
The advantages of a sterling standard for all commercial transactions were, however, imperfectly attained, and towards the end of the year 1816 the growth of trade made this want more acute. In consequence, Macquarie caused a public meeting to be held, whereat it was decided to establish a bank,* subject to the governor's approval, with a capital of £20,000. Macquarie readily gave his sanction to the proposal, and granted the shareholders a charter of incorporation. It is typical of the change in Macquarie's character that, whereas in 1810 he had sought the permission of the English government to establish a bank, in 1817 he granted a charter for the formation of a bank and sought confirmation of it afterwards. This charter was held to be null and void by the English crown law officers, and Macquarie was informed that he had no power to grant such a charter.** Notwithstanding the illegality of the incorporation, the formation of the bank of New South Wales under Macquarie's sanction formed a prominent milestone in the financial history of the colony. The bank issued notes of value from two shillings and sixpence upwards, payable in sterling on demand, and these notes practically initiated a sterling circulation in the colony.
[* See page 219 et seq.] [** See page 840.] (Both volume X.)
The unlimited control exercised by a governor over finance and trade is well exemplified in the fixation of rates of interest. Governor King, by an ordinance in July, 1804, had fixed the legal rate at £8 sterling per centum per annum. Notwithstanding the variations in the value of money, it had remained at that arbitrary rate until February, 1817, when, at the request of the directors of the bank of New South Wales, Governor Macquarie increased it to £10 per centum.
Throughout most of his administration, Macquarie maintained the practice of fixing the prices of commodities necessary to support life. As already noted, the internal trade of the colony depended largely on the purchases of wheat and meat made by government. As long as the government was the chief purchaser, the fixation of the price of wheat had many advantages. It enabled the farmer to anticipate his return with some confidence. If the government had not fixed the price, in years of abundant harvest the price of wheat would have fallen so low that it would not pay the farmer to grow it. In consequence, in the year following, little ground would be cultivated, and then, the harvest being small, the price of wheat would be increased enormously. In spite of much opposition, Macquarie maintained fixed prices for wheat. At the same time, he strongly advocated the establishment of a distillery, protected by a preferential duty on the spirits distilled, in order that a market might be created for the surplus crop of grain after the demands of government were satisfied.
Prior to Macquarie's arrival, the evils of monopoly had been rampant. These evils had been most in evidence in the spirit trade, and had been the cause of considerable difficulty to former governors. Macquarie had received specific instructions from the secretary of state to suppress the traffic in spirits, and to prohibit their use as a medium of barter for produce and the necessaries of life. Shortly after his arrival, he had practically attained this end by the imposition of an import duty of three shillings per gallon, and by requiring all importers to receive a permit for each individual speculation in spirits prior to landing the same in the colony. These regulations had practically controlled the spirit traffic; but, nevertheless, about ten months after his arrival in the colony, Macquarie granted a huge monopoly* in spirits to the contractors for the erection of the general hospital. This remarkable action was severely criticised by the secretary of state,** and seems incapable of any justification.
[* See page 401 et seq., volume VII, and note 66, volume VIII.] [** See page 486, volume VII.]
Macquarie was, however, successful in coping with attempted monopolies in the necessaries of life. He prevented a monopoly in grain by means of importations from Bengal; he utilised the government herds of cattle to defeat a monopoly in meat; and in September, 1812, he issued a striking proclamation*** strongly condemning any attempts to secure the artificial inflation of prices.
[*** See note 130, volume VII.]
In December, 1814, Macquarie abolished**** the retail sale of goods from the government stores. This practice had been established in the year 1800 to protect the settlers against extortions in their purchases of the smaller articles of merchandize; but Macquarie found that it was no longer necessary owing to the arrival of frequent shipments of goods and to the competition amongst the traders. At the same time, Macquarie opened all the ports in the territory to the unrestricted importation of spirits and merchandize.
[**** See page 471, volume VIII.]
Throughout his administration, Macquarie was lavish in the expenditure of public money. As the larger part of this was met by drafts on the English treasury, a considerable sum of money was introduced into the colony. The average aggregate amount of bills drawn during the four years (1806-1809) preceding Macquarie's arrival was £29,415. In 1810 Macquarie drew £72,600, in the first ten weeks of 1811 £21,214, and in subsequent years his expenditure rapidly increased, out of proportion to the increase of the population. The circulation of this money caused a "boom", and led to a false and superficial prosperity. Macquarie claimed credit for this prosperity, but, unfortunately for such claim, the "boom" was followed by the inevitable depression after his departure.
Macquarie made every effort to encourage trade and commerce. An example of this may be quoted. In 1813 he had enacted a schedule of import duties* on certain articles which were the produce of the south seas. A few years' experience of their incidence convinced him that they were a source of injury to the trade, and in 1817 he proposed** that a draw-back of these duties should be allowed on such articles that were re-exported.
[* See page 749, volume VII.] [** See page 401. (volume IX.)]
In one instance in connection with trade Macquarie showed a remarkable hastiness of disposition, and his intolerance of opposition led him to commit a serious error. After the declaration of peace with America, the resumption of American trading at Port Jackson was expected. In February, 1816, the American schooner Traveller arrived from Canton, freighted with tea and merchandize, which were at the time much in request at Sydney. Macquarie granted the schooner liberty of entry. Shortly afterwards she was seized under the provisions of the navigation act by the Reverend Benjamin Vale, one of the chaplains on the colonial staff. When Macquarie heard of this he at once released the schooner from arrest. He then preferred charges against Vale, and had him brought to trial by court martial,*** which sentenced Vale to be "publicly and severely reprimanded and admonished". Such action was quite illegal, and in consequence Macquarie was severely censured by Earl Bathurst.****
[*** See page 100.] [**** See page 206.] (Both volume IX.)
Macquarie's influence on finance, trade, and commerce materially contributed to the advancement of the colony. He created a "boom", which had certain advantages, although followed by the inevitable depression. He developed a system of public credit. He abolished some restrictions on trade and drew attention to others. Excepting his mistakes in conniving at a monopoly in spirits in 1810, and in the wrongful issue of a charter to the bank, his influence over finance and commerce was excellent.
Macquarie's character was many-sided, and this is strikingly demonstrated in his relations with the individuals over whom he more or less had control. He showed an extraordinary kindness of heart and even an excessive leniency to those who were incompetent or had committed errors, provided that they had in no manner clashed with his own principles. On the other hand, he was unjust and even vindictive, probably owing to his intolerance of opposition and his natural hastiness of disposition, when an individual came into conflict with him.
Examples of his kindness may be quoted. In March, 1816, Macquarie reported* that he had found it necessary to remove surgeon Mountgarrett from the magistracy for improper conduct, and at the same time recommended his retirement from the position of surgeon on account of the loss of an arm. In the same despatch he severely criticised the conduct and capacity of surgeon Luttrell, and recommended his removal. Yet, in spite of such adverse reports, Macquarie proposed that pensions should be granted to both officers. The pensions were refused at first by the secretary of state, in consequence of Macquarie's reports, but on a second application were granted. His action with regard to a pension for Mrs. Eliza Bent was very similar.
[* See page 67. (volume IX.)]
His vindictiveness was shown on several occasions. One has already been noted, viz., his withdrawal of land grants and indulgences from the alleged signatories to a petition of grievances to the House of Commons.** His treatment of the Reverend Samuel Marsden was remarkable. At an early date the opinions of the latter had clashed with his own. Marsden had adversely commented on the appointments of Thompson and Lord to the magistracy. In the month of February, 1814. Macquarie and Marsden were again in conflict, owing to the refusal of the latter to read a general order in church. It had been customary to announce many general orders, relating to a variety of subjects, during divine service. As Marsden was largely engaged in farming pursuits, it is possible that his refusal to read this order,*** which related to the supply of grain to the public stores, was due to a personal interest. A difference of opinion also arose over Marsden's attempted introduction of low-church doctrines. In 1817 Earl Bathurst transmitted an extract**** of a letter containing charges against Macquarie's administration, without disclosing the author's name. The governor wrongfully assumed that the letter was written by Marsden, and in his reply to Earl Bathurst made an attack***** upon him. At the same time, in a confidential despatch, Macquarie transmitted a list,****** which included Marsden's name, of twelve persons, whose dispositions he variously described as discontented, intriguing, vindictive, or seditious towards the colonial administration. Prior to this date, in spite of previous differences, there had been a certain amount of friendship between the governor and the chaplain; but, subsequently, Macquarie conceived the idea that whilst professing friendship Marsden was making secret attacks on him. The relations between the two became strained, and finally Macquarie took the grave step of taxing Marsden, in the presence of others, with the crimes of sedition and mutiny. The charge of sedition was based on the fact that Marsden had taken a deposition from the public flogger, relating to the corporal punishments******* ordered by Macquarie for trespass on the government domain at Sydney. These punishments were grossly illegal, and, as J. T. Bigge reported,* it was probable, "from a consciousness, perhaps, ... that he was without defence, Governor Macquarie from one error only fell into another" in making this charge against Marsden. The charge of mutiny was based on Marsden's refusal, some years before, to be associated with the ex-convicts, Andrew Thompson and Simeon Lord, and his objection to the principle that ex-convicts should be admitted to general society. At the interview with the governor, Marsden declared that he would no longer act as a magistrate, a position which, by reason of his long residence in the colony, he was probably the most qualified to hold. He did not, however, give immediate effect to his resolution, but in March, 1818, he tendered his resignation. Macquarie thereupon announced in general orders that he "had been pleased to dispense with the services of the Reverend Samuel Marsden as justice of the peace and magistrate." As it was Macquarie's practice to publish an eulogistic statement of the services of a public officer on his retirement, this bald announcement conveyed the impression of a real dismissal accompanied by disgrace. It is evident that Macquarie's conduct towards Marsden was most unjust, and it is probable that, had he listened to the advice of Marsden, many of the mistakes of his administration would have been avoided.
[** See page xiv. (volume IX.)] [*** See page 257 et seq., volume VIII.] [**** See page 197 et seq. (volume IX.)] [***** See page 495 et seq. and page 502 et seq. (both volume IX.)] [****** See page 500. (volume IX.)] [******* See note 162. (volume IX.)] [* See first report by J. T. Bigge, page 92.]
The conclusion of the discussion of Governor Macquarie's
administration will be found in volume X. [Part III.]
[Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. X: Introduction]
IN the introductions to volumes VIII [PART I.] and IX [PART II.], the most important events in the life of Governor Macquarie have been noted, and his administration in matters of trade and finance, and his policy with regard to the emancipists and the public works of the colony have been criticised.
Before proceeding to discuss the influence of Macquarie over the judicial and convict systems, it is necessary to draw attention to some general factors which had considerable weight during his administration.
In the first place, the colony had been founded on the principle of a military occupation, in which the governor was supreme. The court of criminal jurisdiction had been established with a marked similarity to a military court martial. The presiding officer was called the judge-advocate, and the members of the court were officers holding naval or military commissions. Even when the new charter was promulgated in 1814, it was considered advisable to maintain the title of judge-advocate in order to preserve a semblance of military domination.* Such a constitution had been fairly satisfactory in the early days, but as, during the Macquarie era, the non-convict population increased and legal criticism became available, it was a source of much dissatisfaction, with which Macquarie was little suited to cope.
[* See note 27, volume IX.]
Secondly, before Macquarie's arrival, there had been no opportunity of obtaining good legal opinions in the colony, and illegal practices had grown up. During his government, Macquarie's actions were subjected to the criticism of educated lawyers, such as the Messrs. Bent, judge-advocate Wylde, and judge Field. Many practices which had formerly been accepted unchallenged were then found to be illegal. Macquarie, who had at an early period adopted the maxim quod gubernatori placet, legis habet vigorem, was somewhat intolerant of all attempts to place limitations on his virtual dictatorship. This intolerance was the source of friction and misunderstandings, as Macquarie was unable to modify his ideas to meet the finer points of the legal mind. It was also the origin of his dispute** with judge-advocate Bent with regard to the port regulations. Macquarie was more tolerant, when, in 1818, judge Field questioned*** the right of the governor to levy duties, on the ground that "no subject of England can be constrained to pay any aids or taxes, but such as are imposed by his own consent or that of his representatives in parliament." This question was referred to England, and the attorney and solicitor general gave it as their opinion**** "that, the part of New South Wales, possessed by His Majesty, not having been acquired by conquest or cession, but taken possession of by him, as desert and uninhabited, and subsequently colonized" from England, the King had no right, through the medium of his governor, to make laws for levying taxes. This decision struck at the very root of a large part of the practice of issuing government and general orders.
[** See page 394 et seq., volume VIII.] [*** See page 774, volume IX.] [**** See note 45 (volume X.)]
Thirdly, during Macquarie's government, the standard of public morality was at a low ebb. A salaried solicitor of the crown, W. H. Moore, did not think it derogatory to write* to the governor a statement, which was intended to convey the impression that he had virtually forged his brother's signature;** and this action was taken entirely to obtain some personal benefits. The secretary to the governor, J. T. Campbell, did not consider it dishonourable to make use of his official position as censor of the Sydney Gazette in order to publish a libel on the Reverend Samuel Marsden, for which he was tried and mulcted in damages;*** even after the trial he aggravated his offence by permitting to be published, or perhaps actually by publishing, in the same paper, a garbled account of the proceedings at the trial. Free settlers did not hesitate to make misrepresentations with regard to their financial positions in order to obtain larger land grants than they were entitled to receive. A few months after Macquarie's departure, judge-advocate Wylde and judge Field gave evidence of similar elasticity of conscience when they united in supporting the illegal actions of the bench of magistrates at Parramatta in the case of Henry Grattan Douglass.****
[* See page 331, volume IX.] [** See note 111, volume IX.] [*** See note 175, volume IX, and page 443 et seq.] [**** See page 763. (volume X.)]
It is clear therefore that Macquarie occupied a difficult position, and was confronted with many intricate problems in maintaining the balance of justice. But his ill-regulated judgment caused him to commit many errors in his relations with the judicial system.
When Governor Macquarie arrived in the colony, justice was administered in accordance with the letters patent* establishing the courts of law, dated 2nd April, 1787. The civil law was administered by the court of civil jurisdiction, which consisted of the judge-advocate, appointed by royal commission, and "two fit and proper persons inhabiting" the territory, appointed by the governor by separate precept for different sessions. The nominees of the governor thereby constituted the majority of this court. From the decisions of this court appeals could be made to the governor sitting in court of appeal. The administration of the criminal law was entrusted to the court of criminal jurisdiction, which consisted of the judge-advocate, appointed by royal commission, and "six officers of his Majesty's forces by sea or land", appointed by special precept of the governor for each session of the court. The governor also had unfettered authority to appoint and dismiss justices of the peace, who possessed similar powers and jurisdiction to magistrates in England.
[* See volume I, series IV.]
On the 12th of August, 1814, new letters patent** were published in the colony, by which the administration of the civil law was altered. For the settlements in New South Wales, two courts were established—the governor's court and supreme court—with separate jurisdictions.*** The governor's court consisted of the judge-advocate and two fit and proper persons resident in the territory, appointed by the governor by special precept. The supreme court was constituted by the judge, appointed by royal commission, and two magistrates of the territory, appointed by the governor by precept. Appeals from the decisions of the supreme court were allowed in certain cases**** to the governor, assisted by the judge-advocate.
[** See volume in series IV.] [*** See notes 34 and 121, volume VIII.] [**** See note 154. (volume X.)]
It is clear that the governor possessed great influence by his power to appoint the majority of the members of the courts, in each instance for short periods, i.e., the duration of particular sittings of each court, and by his unlimited power to appoint and dismiss justices of the peace. Governor Macquarie never used this enormous influence to control decisions of the courts in causes tried; but he attempted to use it to control their procedure, and thereby to further his emancipist policy.
He appointed four emancipists* to the commission of the peace, and, on different occasions, he appointed one as a member of the supreme court and another as a member of the governor's court. Such actions cannot be justified; for the idea of entrusting a part of the administration of justice to one who himself had been convicted of an offence against the laws of his country is repugnant to the principles of British justice. The appointment of Simeon Lord as a member of the supreme court was probably the most serious error. Lord's nomination to the commission of the peace had been adversely criticised by the secretary of state, and resented by many persons in the colony. Macquarie himself, at this very time, considered that Lord's private occupations were derogatory to his position as a magistrate. These appointments could only have the one result, namely, the lowering of the dignity and respect of the magistrates and the law courts in the popular estimation.
[* See page viii et seq., volume IX.]
Governor Macquarie also endeavoured to secure to emancipists the right to practise in the law courts, and, in doing so, he tried to control the procedure of the courts. Before the year 1814, emancipists who, before conviction, had received a legal education, were permitted to practise in the courts, in consequence of the entire want of properly qualified solicitors in the colony. In accordance with this custom, at the first sittings of the supreme court,** commencing on the 1st of May, 1815, petitions for admission to practice were received from George Crossley, George Chartres, and Edward Eagar, each of whom had arrived in the colony under sentence of transportation. Two of the petitioners, Crossley and Eagar, had practised in the old court of civil jurisdiction; but their admission to the practice of the supreme court was not necessary, for two solicitors had been appointed in England for service in the colony, although at that date one had not arrived in the colony. When these petitions were received, the judge, J. H. Bent, held that a person once convicted of felony was for ever barred from admission to practice in the law courts; the members of the court, William Broughton and Alexander Riley, the governor's nominees, were, however, not prepared to adopt this principle as a rule of the court, and desired to consider each application on its merits. Before the meeting of the court, two of the petitioners had made the same request to Governor Macquarie, and he had officially recommended the plea of the memorials to J. H. Bent, who had stated in reply that he had strong objection to their admission as attorneys. The members of the court were aware of Macquarie's opinion prior to their receiving the petitions, and probably were influenced by it. On the 15th of May, a rule*** was also adopted by the governor's court, which refused admission in that court to emancipists. Governor Macquarie was absent at Bathurst when the petitions were received by the supreme court. On his return, he used all his influence to persuade the courts to consent to the admission of the applicants, but without success, for the judge-advocate and judge refused all compromise on the principle they had adopted. In consequence of this dispute, J. H. Bent adjourned the sittings of the supreme court until an expression of opinion could be obtained from the secretary of state. In his reply**** to Macquarie's despatch on the subject, Earl Bathurst fully endorsed the opinions put forward by the judge-advocate and judge, but at the same time censured them for the manner in which those principles had been brought forward and acted upon, and for that reason ordered their recall. As the direct result of this dispute between Macquarie and J. H. Bent, the trials of all causes in which the amount involved exceeded the sum of £50 sterling were suspended for two years, with great injury and inconvenience to the colonists.
[** See page 479 et seq., volume VIII.] [*** See page 542, volume VIII.] [**** See page 107 et seq., volume IX.]
In his administration of the convict system, Governor Macquarie committed many errors of judgment. During his government, it became necessary to develop a rational and workable system for the management of the convicts, as the influence of the convict class on the character of the community had become very great. Previous to the year 1810 less than twelve thousand convicts had been transported to the colony, whilst during Macquarie's government alone the numbers were more than twenty-one thousand. To find employment for and to regulate the conduct of this large number of convicts were the problems which confronted Macquarie.
At this period, convicts who had been transported to the colony were not lodged in gaols and taken out in gangs for their daily labour. The gaols were reserved for the imprisonment of those persons who had committed crimes in the settlements; whilst the transported convicts, employed in the towns, resided, before the year 1819, in scattered huts and houses, and, except during the hours of labour, were practically allowed their freedom. Under such conditions, it is apparent that the convict class had great influence on the community when the number of free people was small as compared with the number of convicts. The defects in the system evolved by Macquarie may probably be best demonstrated by a brief sketch of the methods adopted.
On the arrival of a transport ship in the harbour, the convicts were mustered on board in the presence of the governor's secretary, and inquiries were made as to their treatment on the voyage, their former trades or occupations, and other particulars. On this information, based on the irresponsible statements of the convicts themselves, the superintendent of convicts decided on the destination of each prisoner. After their debarkation, the convicts were inspected and addressed by Governor Macquarie. In the course of his address, he stated that no reference would be made to their past, and that "their future conduct" would "alone entitle them to reward or indulgence". This speech had a bad effect, as the convicts on their first arrival realised that all classifications or punishments by hard labour, according to the degrees of their crimes, were abolished.
There were two channels for the employment of convicts, assignment to settlers and other individuals, and employment in the government gangs; but the distribution was made entirely without reference to the crimes for which they were transported.
Free labour was scarce in the colony, and applications for the assignment of convicts as labourers and servants were made by settlers and other inhabitants. Applications at first were addressed to the governor's secretary, but later to the principal superintendent of convicts. The assignment was at first made by lottery, but, when this practice fell into disuse, the whole duty was left in the hands of the principal superintendent, William Hutchinson. He was free to act at his discretion, as the governor seldom interfered with a selection.
Convicts were also assigned to overseers and clerks in lieu of salaries. Such a convict was victualled by government, and was allowed his freedom by his master on payment of a weekly sum of ten shillings, which was reduced to five if he gave up his government ration to his master.*
[* See first report by J. T. Bigge, page 17.]
The assignment system led to many abuses. Wives of convicts frequently followed their husbands to the colony, and obtained their assignment; husbands followed the same practice when their wives were convicts. Convicts with money obtained their assignment to one of the poorer settlers, and then, usually by payment of a weekly sum, obtained exemption from all labour. By these means many of the terrors of transportation were removed. The rigours of assignment at other times depended on the temperament of the masters; one settler was inclined to treat his assigned servants with lenience and indulgence, another with harshness and severity. Assignment of female convicts was also the cause of much immorality.
Employment in the government gangs was dreaded by the convicts in the first years of this period. Macquarie's passion for the erection of large public buildings created a demand for mechanics, and these were in consequence absorbed in the government gangs, and it was a difficult matter and esteemed a great favour for a settler to obtain the assignment of a skilled labourer. To avoid employment in a government gang, convicts frequently concealed their true trades.
In the year 1811, Governor Macquarie abolished the employment of convicts in agriculture on government account, and did not renew it until he established the penal agricultural settlement at Emu plains at the end of the year 1819. The consequence of this was that all convicts in the employ of government were congregated in large gangs in the towns, with the exception of those engaged in the construction and maintenance of the public roads. For many years no suitable building was provided for the accommodation of these gangs at Sydney, and the convicts were allowed to billet themselves in various parts of the town. Such a system caused an almost total lack of control and supervision, and it was not until the opening of the convict barracks near Hyde park on the 4th of June, 1819, that discipline was possible. The effects of a system which allowed to hardened criminals their freedom at night time can be readily imagined, and many crimes were caused by the want of discipline.
The large town gangs were chiefly employed in the erection of public buildings. If these buildings had been necessary, the cost of the maintenance of such large bodies of convicts would have been justified. But many of the buildings were too large and too ornamental for the requirements of the colony, and the expenditure therefore was unnecessary. Undoubtedly the convicts could have been employed more profitably in the clearing of land for settlers, as they were during the government of Sir Thomas Brisbane, or in agriculture, thereby contributing to their own maintenance.
Convicts of the educated class, who were unused to manual labour, were usually granted tickets-of-leave soon after their arrival, if they showed a reasonable prospect of being able to support themselves. By this practice, they were set at large in the colony and liberated from all discipline and control.
Before leaving England, Governor Macquarie's attention had been drawn to the want of classification* of the convicts, and the indiscriminate mixing of all classes irrespective of their degrees of crime. He commenced with the humanitarian object of making the settlements a place of reform, where offenders against the laws of their country might rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of their fellow-men. He failed in the first inception of a system for such purposes by neglecting to segregate the hardened criminal, or one undergoing a second or third term of transportation from England, from association with one who had been transported for a momentary lapse or minor offence against the law. Convicts undergoing a sentence of transportation passed by the colonial courts were, however, removed to Newcastle and, in the last few months of Macquarie's administration, to Port Macquarie. With these exceptions, the most hardened criminal had unfettered association with the novice in crime.
[* See page 206 et seq., volume VII.]
The superintendence of the convicts was weak. Many of the superintendents, overseers, and clerks in charge of road gangs were convicts themselves, and, in the year 1818, out of one hundred and seven, only thirty-eight were free. Macquarie had frequently requested, without success, the appointment of properly qualified persons from England, but at the same time his opposition to the immigration of free persons reduced the numbers available in the colony. These men were remunerated chiefly by the assignment of convicts to themselves, as has already been noted.
Want of efficient control was the cause of much idleness and desultory work amongst the government gangs. In the year 1817, a system of task work was introduced, with Governor Macquarie's somewhat unwilling consent. Wherever practicable, certain weekly tasks were allotted to the men. This task work was fixed on a scale considerably below that accomplished by a free man, and, as soon as each convict had fulfilled his weekly task, he was allowed to employ himself to his own advantage. This policy caused a considerable speeding up of the public works, and at the same time allowed the settlers the opportunity of gaining a limited amount of skilled labour from the convict mechanics in their own time, as most of the convicts were able to fulfil their weekly task by Wednesday evening. The change was also appreciated by the convicts; in place of the former aversion to being employed in government gangs, such employment was eagerly sought by all convicts, and servants assigned to settlers became restless and dissatisfied and used every means to obtain their "return to government". The result was that the settlers, after first appreciating the new system, found it unworkable, and it was finally abolished and a reversion made to the old system of day labour with its associated slackness.
The indulgences to convicts according to colonial custom were of three kinds—tickets-of-leave, and conditional and absolute pardons. All these were in the gift of the governor. A ticket-of-leave enabled the recipient to follow any occupation he desired, provided he remained within a certain named district. A conditional pardon granted the holder his freedom within the limits of the territory. An absolute pardon gave the recipient his full freedom and the right to return to England.
Prior to June, 1811, the granting of these indulgences was not regulated; but on the 22nd of that month, Governor Macquarie declared that no remissions of sentence would be granted except after a long and uninterrupted period of good conduct; that convicts for life must serve "several years"; that convicts for limited terms must serve at least half their sentence; and that tickets-of-leave would not be granted until the applicants had served three years. In the year 1813, Macquarie made additional regulations.* He declared that no absolute pardons would be granted to convicts for life until they had resided fifteen years in the colony, or to convicts for limited terms until they had resided for three-fourths of the sentence; and that no conditional pardons would be granted in similar cases until after a residence of ten years and two-thirds of the sentence respectively. Applications for such indulgences were at first received by Governor Macquarie at any time; but, owing to the inconvenience caused by the number of applicants, one day a month, and later only the first Monday in December of each year, was set apart for the hearing of the petitions. Applications were suspended for three years, 1816, 1818, and 1820, on the principle of expediency.
[* See page 782 et seq., volume VII.]
In announcing these regulations, Governor Macquarie stated that he was determined not to deviate from them. The regulations were indeed excellent; but Macquarie nullified them by his own actions, for in eight years (1813-1820), out of two thousand seven hundred and thirty indulgences granted, seven hundred and ten were made contrary to his own regulations.
Governor Macquarie also adopted the practice of granting indulgences as rewards for some particular labour or enterprize. Some of these were well deserved, such as the seven absolute and five conditional pardons granted to men who accompanied John Oxley on his explorations. Possibly the three absolute and thirty-five conditional pardons and one ticket-of-leave given to men employed in making the first Bathurst road were also justifiable; but the seven emancipations granted merely for the use of horses and carts in the construction of that road, without any personal service whatever, were tantamount to the sale of pardons. Also the eight emancipations granted for assisting with carts and one horse each in the transport of baggage and provisions for Governor Macquarie on his visit to Bathurst in 1815, a service which lasted only five weeks without any danger, were quite unmerited rewards.
Indeed, there seems only one conclusion to draw with regard to Macquarie's administration of the settlements as a penal colony, and that is that his system for the management of convicts and his policy with regard to emancipists were too ill-regulated and ill-balanced to be continued, or to confer any lasting benefit on the progress of the colony.
The methods adopted by Governor Macquarie in making land grants were extremely lax, and were the cause of much subsequent confusion. By the ninth paragraph of his instructions,* he was ordered to make periodical returns of land grants to the commissioners of the treasury and to the committee of the privy council for trade and plantations. Such returns were transmitted with despatches, dated 30th April, 1810, 18th October, 1811, and 17th November, 1812. No further returns were made until he was instructed** to do so in March, 1821, in consequence of an order made by the House of Commons. There does not appear to be any explanation for this neglect to comply with his instructions. In the meantime, he had been most lavish in granting lands, as will be seen from his return*** to the 25th of March, 1821. Apart from the grants actually completed, at the time of his departure he left a balance of unexecuted grants, whose area aggregated three hundred and forty thousand acres. Most of these lands were occupied merely on a promise,**** they were unsurveyed, and in several cases dealings in them had been transacted. Many of the titles to town allotments were also incomplete. The result of such a system was chaos, which gave rise to innumerable lawsuits. Many years later, these promises of land grants and permissive occupancies were considered and finally settled by the court of claims.
[* See page 193, volume VII.] [** See page 408. (volume X.)] [*** See page 560 et seq. (volume X.)] [**** A striking example of such a promise is quoted in note 136. (volume X.)]
During Macquarie's government, the administration of the colony was the subject of severe criticism in parliament, in the English press, and in a pamphlet***** published by the Hon. H. Grey Bennet. Part of the criticism was due to misrepresentations sent to England, but much of it was justified. In January, 1819, John Thomas Bigge was appointed a commissioner to inquire into the state of the colony. He was also instructed to investigate the conduct of all officials. Macquarie seems to have resented this in his own case, and he took exception to the question put to most witnesses, whether they had any complaints to make against the governor. The relations between Bigge and Macquarie were therefore much strained on several occasions. Bigge was endowed with plenary powers to make recommendations to the governor for immediate reforms, and, if they were not adopted, Macquarie was directed to submit a full report of his reasons to England. Such recommendations were refused by Macquarie on two important occasions, namely, at the time of the appointment of William Redfern to the magistracy, and on the question of the removal of headquarters at Port Dalrymple. In both cases, Macquarie's judgment was wrong and Bigge's recommendations were correct. In making his investigations, Bigge adopted the practice of taking evidence without putting the witness on his oath, and it is probable that a certain amount of malicious testimony was given. Macquarie took strong exception to this; but Bigge continued it, as he considered it probable that the witnesses would thereby give their evidence with greater freedom. Notwithstanding possible mistakes that may have crept in from this cause, it is certain that the reports submitted to parliament by J. T. Bigge led to innumerable reforms of immense value to the colony, which were introduced during the government of Sir Thomas Brisbane. The reports engendered much bitterness and ill-feeling in Macquarie, and it was even suggested in the colonial press at the time that they hastened his death.
[***** See note 58. (volume X.)]
The exercise of unlimited authority for such an extended period as nearly twelve years undoubtedly had great influence over Macquarie's character, and made the autocrat more autocratic than before. Yet towards the close of his administration his energy was waning, and of this he gave expression in a despatch* to Earl Bathurst, dated 29th February, 1820. The presence in the colony of the commission of inquiry probably also led him to defend some of his administrative acts and to modify his views. In a despatch** dated 31st August, 1820, he wrote a defence of his reasons for refusing certain land grants, and in another despatch,*** dated 28th February, 1820, a defence of his erection of the general hospital. He reversed his views entirely with regard to the location of the courts**** in the principal surgeon's quarters at the general hospital, and his employment of convicts in agriculture***** on government account.
[* See page 291.] [** See page 343.] [*** See page 283.] [**** See note 69.] [***** See note 93.] (All volume X.)
During Macquarie's government the colony was in a condition of transition. It was emerging from the position of a penal settlement on an isolated coast to a growing colony awaiting methodical development. A master mind might have hastened its development; might have recognised that the status of a purely penal settlement was no longer tenable, and that a free population, as distinct from the emancipist class, should be encouraged; and might have shaped its destinies accordingly. But Macquarie did none of these things. The chief causes of his failure were his ill-balanced judgment, his hastiness and obstinacy, which made him intolerant of advice and unwilling to modify his views, when criticised, or to acquiesce in the limitation of his powers by accredited legal opinions. As a man, he was honourable and upright, energetic and determined, and won the respect of the large class he befriended. As an administrator, he developed the purely material side of the colony, he encouraged the foundation of a rational financial system, and he removed some of the disabilities of trade and commerce. But in the larger issues Macquarie failed. Probably the most important result of Macquarie's administration was the fact that it made the British ministry realise that a government by one man, unaided and with autocratic powers, was no longer feasible in the colony.
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