Lachlan Macquarie

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Lachlan Macquarie : biography

31 January 1762 – 1 July 1824

Many years after his governorship:

  • Macquarie Park and Macquarie Links, suburbs of Sydney.
  • Macquarie Shopping Centre, North Ryde
  • Macquarie, a suburb of Canberra, Australia
  • Lachlan Street, Macquarie, Canberra, Australia
  • Division of Macquarie, one of the first 75 Divisions of the Australian House of Representatives created for the Australian Parliament in 1901.

Institutions named after Macquarie:

  • Macquarie Hospital, Sydney
  • Macquarie University, Sydney
  • Macquarie Bank, an investment bank founded in 1970

As reformer and explorer

Central to Macquarie’s policy was his treatment of the emancipists: convicts whose sentences had expired or who had been given conditional or absolute pardons. By 1810 emancipists had outnumbered the free settlers, and Macquarie set the tone himself by appointing emancipists to government positions: Francis Greenway as colonial architectWard, R., (1975), p. 37 and Dr William Redfern as colonial surgeon.Hughes, R., (1986), p. 151 He scandalised settler opinion by appointing an emancipist, Andrew Thompson, as a magistrate,Ellis, M.H., (1952), p. 228 and by inviting emancipists to tea at Government House. In exchange, Macquarie demanded that the ex-convicts live reformed (Christian) lives. He required that former convicts regularly attend church services, and in particular, strongly encouraged formal Christian (Anglican) marriages.Molony, J., (1987), p. 41

Macquarie was the greatest sponsor of exploration the colony had yet seen. In 1813 he authorised Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson’s successful crossing of the Blue Mountains where they found the great plains of the interior. There he ordered the establishment of Bathurst, Australia’s first inland city. He appointed John Oxley as surveyor-general and sent him on expeditions up the coast of New South Wales and inland to find new rivers and new lands for settlement. Oxley discovered the rich Northern Rivers and New England regions of New South Wales, and in what is now Queensland he explored the present site of Brisbane.

The street layout of modern central Sydney is based upon a street plan established by Macquarie. The colony’s most prestigious buildings were built on Macquarie Street. Some of these still stand today. What has survived of the Georgian ‘Rum Hospital’ serves as the Parliament House of the state of New South Wales. It is probable that the hospital was designed by Macquarie himself, in collaboration with his wife. The building’s wide verandas were evidently inspired by Macquarie’s familiarity with English colonial architecture in India.Hughes, R., (1986), p. 297 The elaborate stables which Macquarie commissioned for Government House are part of the modern structure housing the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Both of these buildings were constructed by Macquarie in defiance of the British government’s ban on expensive public building projects in the colony and reflect the tension between Macquarie’s vision of Sydney as a Georgian city and the British government’s view of the colony as a dumping ground for convicts to be financed as cheaply as possible.

The origin of the name "Australia" is closely associated with Macquarie. "Australia", as a name for the country which we now know by that name, was suggested by Matthew Flinders, but first used in an official despatch by Macquarie in 1817.Ellis, M.H., (1952), p. 431

Macquarie’s policies, especially his championing of the emancipists and the lavish expenditure of government money on public works, aroused opposition both in the colony and in London, where the government still saw New South Wales as fundamentally a penal colony. His statement, in a letter to the Colonial Secretary, that "free settlers in general… are by far the most discontented persons in the country" and that "emancipated convicts, or persons become free by servitude, made in many instances the best description of settlers", was much held against him.