Lachlan Macquarie

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Lachlan Macquarie : biography

31 January 1762 – 1 July 1824

Macquarie ruled the colony as an enlightened despot, breaking the power of the Army officers such as John Macarthur, who had been the colony’s de facto ruler since Bligh’s overthrow.Ward, R., (1975), pp. 35–37 He was "the last British proconsul sent to run New South Wales as a military autocracy".Hughes, R., (1986), p. 293

In 1812, the first detailed inquiry into the convict system in Australia by a Select Committee on Transportation, supported in general Macquarie’s liberal policies.Report From the Select Committee On Transportation. Ordered, by the House of Commons, to be printed, 10 July 1812, pp. 22–31 However, the committee thought that fewer tickets of leave should be issued and opposed the governor having the power to grant pardons. The committee concluded that the colony should be made as prosperous as possible so as to provide work for the convicts and to encourage them to become settlers after being given their freedom.

On a visit of inspection to the settlement of Hobart Town on the Derwent River in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) in November 1811, Macquarie was appalled at the ramshackle arrangement of the town and ordered the government surveyor James Meehan to survey a regular street layout. This survey determined the form of the current centre of the city of Hobart.Ellis, M.H., (1952), p. 208

Macquarie is credited with producing the first official currency specifically for circulation in Australia. Foreign coins were common in the early years of the New South Wales colony but much of this coin left the colony as a result of trade with visiting merchant ships. To secure a reliable supply of coins, in 1812 Macquarie purchased 40,000 Spanish dollar coins and had a convicted forger named William Henshall cut the centers out of the coins and counter stamp them to distinguish them as belonging to the colony of New South Wales and prevent them being useful elsewhere. The central plug (known as a "dump") was valued at 15 pence and the rim (known as a holey dollar) became a five-shilling piece.

The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 brought a renewed flood of both convicts and settlers to New South Wales, as the sea lanes became free and as the rate of unemployment and crime in Britain rose.Hughes, R., (1986), p. 301 Macquarie presided over a rapid increase in population and economic activity. By the time of his departure for London on February 15, 1822,Appleton, Richard & Brown, Robin, Milestones in Australian history: 1788 to the present,1986, Collins, London, p.102, ISBN 0-00-216581-3 the white population had reached an ‘estimated’ 36,969.Appleton, Richard & Brown, Robin, Milestones in Australian history: 1788 to the present,1986, p.101 The colony began to have a life beyond its functions as a penal settlement, and an increasing proportion of the population earned their own living. All this, in Macquarie’s eyes, made a new social policy necessary.