Lachlan Macquarie


Lachlan Macquarie : biography

31 January 1762 – 1 July 1824

Macquarie is regarded as having been ambivalent towards the Australian Aborigines. He ordered punitive expeditions against the aborigines. However, when dealing with friendly tribes, he developed a strategy of nominating a ‘chief’ to be responsible for each of the clans, identified by the wearing of a brass breast-plate engraved with his name and title. Although this was a typically European way of negotiation, it often did reflect the actual status of elders within tribes. Macquarie founded the Native Institution in Parramatta for the education of Aboriginal children. The first children were enrolled in the institution on the 28 December 1814. The success of the institution was limited because parents objected to the policy that prevented them from seeing their children.

Despite opposition from the British government, Macquarie encouraged the creation of the colony’s first bank, the Bank of New South Wales, in 1817.Ward, R., (1975), p.39

Return to Scotland, death, and legacy

Leaders of the free settler community complained to London about Macquarie’s policies, and in 1819 the government appointed an English judge, John Bigge, to visit New South Wales and report on its administration. Bigge generally agreed with the settlers’ criticisms, and his reports on the colony led to Macquarie’s resignation in 1821; he had, however, served longer than any other governor. Bigge also recommended that no governor should again be allowed to rule as an autocrat, and in 1824 the New South Wales Legislative Council, Australia’s first legislative body, was appointed to advise the governor.

Macquarie returned to Scotland, and died in London in 1824 while busy defending himself against Bigge’s charges. But his reputation continued to grow after his death, especially among the emancipists and their descendants, who were the majority of the Australian population until the gold rushes. Today he is regarded by many as the most enlightened and progressive of the early governors who sought to establish Australia as a country, rather than as a prison camp.

The nationalist school of Australian historians have treated him as a proto-nationalist hero. His grave in Mull is maintained by the National Trust of Australia and is inscribed "The Father of Australia". Macquarie formally adopted the name Australia for the continent, the name earlier proposed by the first circumnavigator of Australia, Matthew Flinders. As well as the many geographical features named after him in his lifetime, he is commemorated by Macquarie University in Sydney.

Macquarie was buried on the Isle of Mull in a remote mausoleum with his wife and son.

Early life and career

Lachlan Macquarie was born on the island of the Ulva off the coast of the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides, a chain of islands off the West Coast of Scotland. Macquarie descended from the Scottish Highland family clan MacQuarrie which possessed Ulva, Staffa, and a region of the Island of Mull for over one thousand years, and his forebears were buried at Icolmkill. Governor Macquarie’s father, was a "man of Intelligence, polite, and much of the world," attained the age of 103 years, dying on 4 January 1818. His mother was the daughter of a Maclaine chieftain who owned a castle on the Isle of Mull.Ellis, M.H., (1952), p. 2 He left the island at the age of 14.Keay, J. & Keay, J. (1994) Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland London. HarperCollins. If he did attend the Royal High School of Edinburgh, "as tradition has it", it was only for a very brief period because, at the same age, he volunteered for the army.Ellis, M.H., (1952), p. 4

Macquarie joined the 84th Regiment of Foot on 9 April 1777, travelling with it to North America in 1777 to take part in the American War of Independence. As a new recruit on the way to America he participated in the Battle of the Newcastle Jane. This battle was the first naval victory for a British merchant ship over an American privateer. He was initially stationed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was commissioned as an ensign five months after his arrival. On 18 January 1781, he was promoted to lieutenant and transferred to the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot, and served with them in New York, Charleston, and Jamaica. In June 1784 he returned to Scotland as a half-pay lieutenant. Three years later, on Christmas Day 1787 he received his commission as lieutenant in the 77th Regiment, where he saw service with the army in India and Egypt. Macquarie became a Freemason in January 1793 at Bombay, in Lodge No. 1 (No. 139 on the register of the English "Moderns" Grand Lodge). He was promoted Captain on 9 November 1789, Major on March 12, 1801. During 1801 he had accompanied Sir David Baird and the Indian Army to Egypt, with the rank of Deputy Adjutant General, and was present at the capture of Alexandria and the final expulsion of the French Army from Egypt. Two years later, 1803, he was in London, as Assistant Adjutant General to Lord Harrington, who commanded the London district. In 1803 and 1804 saw him on active service in India. He returned to London in 1807, commanding the 73rd Regiment of Foot, and on May 8 was appointed Governor of Now South Wales and its dependencies, leaving for the colony on 22 May 1809, in H M S. Dromedary, where he landed officially on 31 December 1809, at Sydney Cove.