Our Enlightened Despot, Father of Australia

After only twenty years of the establishment of the colony of New South Wales, already trouble was brewing, disunity caused by the selfish motives of those called to supposedly protect the interests of the colony. On January 26 1808, exactly twenty years from when Captain Arthur Philip planted the British flag on Australian soil, and became the first Governor of New South Wales, the New South Wales Corps, under the inspiration of John Macarthur, a ruthless and greedy man, led a rebellion against Governor Bligh.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie

Governor Lachlan Macquarie

It was in such a state of disorder that Governor Lachlan Macquarie was appointed and sent to bring order. The first task Macquarie had to tackle was to restore orderly, lawful government and discipline in the colony. He brought his own regiment (men loyal to him personally) and replaced the NSW Corps with his own men. However, the troubles were far from over. Already at such an early stage, a great gulf had developed between the “Exclusives” (the officers and their factional division which included the free settlers) and the “Emancipists” (convicts who had completed their term of imprisonment and were now settlers). Lachlan Macquarie was an advocate for social justice, not merely wanting to support the “under dog,” but with vision of created a united society, where ultimately people would be free of their past, having fulfilled justice’s requirements for their misdemeanor. He saw the value of each individual according to what they could contribute to the growth of society. had a leading role in the social, economic and architectural development of the colony. He had a crucial influence on the transition of New South Wales from a penal colony to a free settlement and therefore to have played a major role in the shaping of Australian society in the early nineteenth century.


A Memorial Statue to Macquarie in Sydney’s Hyde Park

However, the primary cause of trouble was that whereas he sought to develop new policy in the colony to establish justice, his autocratic quality was questioned. People (not motivated by a sense of social justice, but merely for their own selfish ends) complained that his ordinances didn’t line up with English Law and so were invalid. Against such fundamental opposition (which ultimately brought an end to his authority as Governor) he left a lasting mark on our nation, and upon his tomb in Scotland is enscribed the words, “Father of Australia.”

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