Lachlan Macquarie

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Lachlan Macquarie : biography

31 January 1762 – 1 July 1824

In 1793 he married Jane Jarvis, daughter of the Chief Justice of Antigua. Three years later she died of tuberculosis.

Governor of New South Wales

In November 1807, Macquarie’s cousin Elizabeth Henrietta Campbell became his second wife. In April 1809 Macquarie was appointed Governor of New South Wales. In making this appointment, the British government reversed its practice of appointing naval officers as governor and chose an army commander in the hope that he could secure the co-operation of the unruly New South Wales Corps,Ward, R., (1975), p. 36 and aided by the fact he arrived in New South Wales at the head of his own military unit, the 73rd Regiment. At the head of regular troops he was unchallenged by the New South Wales Corps whose members had become settled in farming, commerce and trade.

Macquarie was promoted to Colonel in 1810, Brigadier in 1811 and Major-General in 1813, while serving as governor.

The Macquaries departed from England in May 1809 aboard the HMS Dromedary, accompanied by the HMS Hindostan. They reached Sydney on 28 December 1809. He started as a governor on 1 January 1810 and he appointed John Campbell as his secretary.

The first task Macquarie had to tackle was to restore orderly, lawful government and discipline in the colony following the Rum Rebellion of 1808 against Governor William Bligh. Macquarie was ordered by the British government to arrest both John Macarthur and Major George Johnston, two of the leaders of the Rum Rebellion. However, by the time Macquarie arrived in Sydney in December 1809, both Macarthur and Johnston had already sailed for England to defend themselves.Hughes, R., (1986), p. 294 Macquarie immediately set about cancelling the various initiatives taken by the rebel governmentfor example, all "pardons, leases and land grants" made by the rebels were revoked, (although many were later re-issued).

Although with the arrival of Lachlan Macquarie, the New South Wales Corps and its monopoly were ended, the military influence survived, with military officers having sway over the justice system. A great gulf existed between the officers and their factional division which included the free settlers ("exclusives") and convicts who had completed their term of imprisonment and were now settlers ("emancipists").

In 1814 a Second Charter of Justice was issued for New South Wales. It defined how the civil court system was to be structured. Three new Courts of Civil Judicature were to be established in New South Wales: the Governor’s Court, the Lieutenant-Governor’s Court and the Supreme Court. Jeffrey Hart Bent, the brother of the Judge Advocate, arrived in the colony as the first judge of the new Supreme Court.

Courts need lawyers and Macquarie’s efforts to allow emancipist attorneys to appear before the Supreme Court was blocked by Jeffrey Bent, who, with his brother, had his allegiances with the military and exclusive settlers. Later in 1814, two solicitors, Fredrick Garling and Moore, arrived in New South Wales. English law was to be followed as far as it was possible. Where new ordinances or laws were needed, they were to be consistent with English laws as far as the particular circumstances of the colony would allow. Many of the settlers were discontented with this, because they questioned whether some of the governors’ ordinances were, in fact, valid. Claims were made in New South Wales and in England that governors were exceeding their authority by making ordinances that were in conflict with English laws.

Macquarie’s relationship with the new Court was never harmonious. The brothers Bent, in their key legal positions, quickly became opponents of the Governor, and personal antipathy affected decisions on both sides. Like most of the governors before him, Macquarie’s noble ideals were undermined by harsh realities and constant opposition. In 1816 he enforced his new proclamation against trespassing on the Government Domain by having three trespassers (all free settlers) flogged. This incident was one of several of which Bent and others complained to the British Government as examples of Macquarie’s authoritarian excesses. As a result, Macquarie was censured by Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State for Colonies, and eventually a commissioner, J. T. Bigge, was sent to inquire into affairs in New South Wales.