John Hunter (Royal Navy officer) bigraphy, stories - British Royal Navy officer, explorer, naturalist and colonial administrator

John Hunter (Royal Navy officer) : biography

29 August 1737 - 13 March 1821

John Hunter (29 August 1737 – 13 March 1821) was an officer of the Royal Navy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, rising to the rank of vice-admiral. He succeeded Arthur Phillip as the second governor of New South Wales, Australia and served as such from 1795 to 1800.J. J. Auchmuty, '', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, MUP, 1966, pp 566-572. Retrieved 12 August 2009

Both a sailor and a scholar, he explored the Parramatta River as early as 1788, and was the first to surmise that Tasmania might be an island. As governor, he tried to combat serious abuses by the military in the face of powerful local interests led by John MacArthur. Hunter's name is commemorated in Hunter Region, Hunter River, Hunter's Hill and Hunter Street.


Hunter's difficulties began before he arrived back in Sydney. Phillip left the colony in 1793, at the end of his term as governor, and for the following two years the military were complete control. During the lieutenant-governorship of Francis Grose, who unmercifully exploited the convicts, a great traffic in alcoholic spirits sprang up, on which there was an enormous profit for the officers concerned. They had obtained the control of the courts and the management of the lands, public stores, and convict labour. Hunter realised that these powers had to be restored to the civil administration, a difficult task. And in John Macarthur he had an opponent who would ruthlessly defend his commercial interests. Hunter found himself practically helpless. A stronger man might have sent the officers home under arrest, but had Hunter attempted to do so he likely would have precipitated the rebellion which took place in William Bligh's time. Anonymous letters were even sent to the home authorities charging Hunter with participation in the very abuses he was striving to prevent. In spite of Hunter's vehement defence of the charges made against him, he was recalled in a dispatch dated 5 November 1799 from the Duke of Portland, one of the three secretaries of state. Hunter acknowledged this dispatch on 20 April 1800, and left for England on 28 September 1800, handing over the government to Lieutenant-Governor Philip Gidley King. When Hunter arrived he endeavoured to vindicate his character with the authorities but was given no opportunity. Hunter was obliged to state his case in a long pamphlet printed in 1802, Governor Hunter's Remarks on the Causes of the Colonial Expense of the Establishment of New South Wales. Hints for the Reduction of Such Expense and for Reforming the Prevailing Abuses, which has become a valuable document in early Australian history.

Hunter was courageous, and a good officer, but the circumstances in which he was placed made it very difficult for him to be completely successful as a governor. As his successor Philip Gidley King said, his conduct was "guided by the most upright intentions", and he was "most shamefully deceived by those on whom he had every reason to depend for assistance, information, and advice." Of his sojourn in the colony Hunter said that he "could not have had less comfort, although he would certainly have had greater peace of mind, had he spent the time in a penitentiary". Hunter did good work in exploring and opening up the country near Sydney, and also encouraged the explorations of Matthew Flinders and George Bass. Hunter continued his interest in Australia for long after he left it, and the suggested reforms in his pamphlet were of much value. When the platypus was first discovered by Europeans in 1798, a pelt and sketch were sent back to the United Kingdom by John Hunter

Family and early life

John Hunter was born in Leith, Scotland, the son of William Hunter, a captain in the merchant service, and Helen, née Drummond, daughter of J. Drummond and niece of George Drummond, several-time lord provost of Edinburgh. As a boy Hunter was sent to live with an uncle in the town of Lynn in Norfolk, where, and also at Edinburgh, he received the classical education of the time. Hunter was sent to University of Edinburgh, but soon left it to join the navy as a captain's servant to Thomas Knackston in in May 1754. In 1755 he was enrolled as able seaman on , became a midshipman and served on and then . While aboard Neptune he was present at the Raid on Rochefort in 1757, and afterwards served during cruises off Brest in 1758 and the capture of Quebec in 1759. Serving aboard Neptune at this time as her first lieutenant was John Jervis, who became an acquaintance of Hunter's.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine