Arthur Phillip

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Arthur Phillip
ArthurPhilip.jpg
1786 portrait by Francis Wheatley
(National Portrait Gallery, London)
1st Governor of New South Wales
In office
7 February 1788 – 11 September 1795
Succeeded by John Hunter
Personal details
Born 11 October 1738 (1738-10-11)
London, England
Died 31 August 1814(1814-08-31) (aged 75)
Bath, England
Military service
Allegiance  Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch Royal Navy
Rank Admiral
Battles/wars

Captain (later Admiral) Arthur Phillip RN (11 October 1738 – 31 August 1814) was the first Governor of New South Wales and founder of the settlement which became Sydney.[1]

After much experience at sea, including command of a ship that was saved in a storm by convicts, Phillip sailed with the First Fleet, as Governor-designate of the proposed British penal colony of New South Wales. In February 1788, he selected its location to be Port Jackson (now Sydney Harbour).

Phillip was a far-sighted governor, who soon saw that New South Wales would need a civil administration and a system for emancipating the convicts. But his plan to bring skilled tradesmen on the voyage had been rejected, and he faced immense problems of labour, discipline and supply. Also his friendly attitude towards the aborigines was sorely tested when they killed his gamekeeper, and he was not able to assert a clear policy about them.

The arrival of the Second and Third Fleets placed new pressures on the scarce local resources, but by the time Phillip sailed home in December 1792, the colony was taking shape, with official land-grants and systematic farming and water-supply.

Phillip retired in 1805, but continued to correspond with his friends in New South Wales and to promote the colony's interests.

Early life and naval career[edit]

Arthur Phillip was born in 1738, the son of Jacob Phillip, a Frankfurt-born language teacher, and his English wife, Elizabeth Breach. Phillip was educated at the Greenwich Hospital School, part of Greenwich Hospital, and at the age of 13 was apprenticed to the merchant navy. He spoke a number of languages in addition to English, including French, German and Portuguese.[2]

Seven Years' War and Spanish-Portuguese War[edit]

Phillip joined the Royal Navy at about fifteen, and saw action at the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in the Mediterranean at the Battle of Minorca. In 1762 he was promoted to Lieutenant, but was placed on half pay when the Seven Years' War ended in 1763. During this period he married, and farmed in Lyndhurst, Hampshire.

In 1774 Phillip joined the Portuguese Navy as a captain, serving in the War against Spain. While with the Portuguese Navy, Phillip commanded a frigate, the Nossa Senhora do Pilar. On this ship he took a detachment of troops from Rio de Janeiro to Colonia do Sacramento on the Rio de la Plata (opposite Buenos Aires) to relieve the garrison there. This voyage also conveyed a consignment of convicts assigned to carry out work at Colonia. During a storm encountered in the course of the voyage, the convicts assisted in working the ship and, on arrival at Colonia, Phillip recommended that they be rewarded for saving the ship by remission of their sentences.[3] A garbled version of this eventually found its way into the English press when Phillip was appointed in 1786 to lead the expedition to Sydney.[4] Phillip played a leading part in the capture of the Spanish ship San Agustín, on 19 April 1777, off Santa Catarina. The San Agustin was commissioned into the Portuguese Navy as the Santo Agostinho, and command of her was given to Phillip. The action was reported in the English press:

Madrid, Aug. 28. Letters from Lisbon bring the following Account from Rio Janeiro: That the St. Augustine, of 70 Guns, having being separated from the Squadron of M. Casa Tilly, was attacked by two Portugueze Ships, against which they defended themselves for a Day and a Night, but being next Day surrounded by the Portugueze Fleet, was obliged to surrender.[5]

In 1778 Britain was again at war, and Phillip was recalled to active service, and in 1779 obtained his first command, HMS Basilisk. He was promoted to captain in 1781, and was given command of HMS Europa.[6]

In July 1782, in a change of government, Thomas Townshend became Secretary of State for Home and American Affairs, and assumed responsibility for organising an expedition against Spanish America. Like his predecessor, Lord Germain, he turned for advice to Arthur Phillip.[7] A letter from Phillip to Sandwich of 17 January 1781 records Phillip's loan to Sandwich of his charts of the Plata and Brazilian coasts for use in organising the expedition.[8] Phillip's plan was for a squadron of three ships of the line and a frigate to mount a raid on Buenos Aires and Monte Video, then to proceed to the coasts of Chile, Peru and Mexico to maraud, and ultimately to cross the Pacific to join the British Navy's East India squadron for an attack on Manila.[9] The expedition, consisting of the Grafton, 70 guns, Elizabeth, 74 guns, Europe, 64 guns, and the Iphigenia frigate, sailed on 16 January 1783, under the command of Commodore Robert Kingsmill.[10] Phillip was given command of the 64-gun HMS Europa, or Europe.[11] Shortly after sailing, an armistice was concluded between Great Britain and Spain. Phillip learnt of this in April when he put in for storm repairs at Rio de Janeiro. Phillip wrote to Townshend from Rio de Janeiro on 25 April 1783, expressing his disappointment that the ending of the American War had robbed him of the opportunity for naval glory in South America.[12]

After his return to England from India in April 1784, Phillip remained in close contact with Townshend, now Lord Sydney, and the Home Office Under Secretary, Evan Nepean. From October 1784 to September 1786 he was employed by Nepean, who was in charge of the Secret Service relating to the Bourbon Powers, France and Spain, to spy on the French naval arsenals at Toulon and other ports.[13] There was fear that Britain would soon be at war with these powers as a consequence of the Batavian Revolution in the Netherlands.[14]

At this time, Lord Sandwich, together with the President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks, was advocating establishment of a British colony in New South Wales.[15] A colony there would be of great assistance to the British Navy in facilitating attacks on the Spanish possessions in Chile and Peru, as Banks's collaborators, James Matra, Captain Sir George Young and Sir John Call pointed out in written proposals on the subject. The British Government took the decision to found the Botany Bay colony in mid-1786. Lord Sydney, as Secretary of State for the Home Office, was the minister in charge of this undertaking, and in September 1786 he appointed Phillip commodore of the fleet which was to transport the convicts and soldiers who were to be the new settlers to Botany Bay. Upon arrival there, Phillip was to assume the powers of Captain General and Governor in Chief of the new colony. A subsidiary colony was to be founded on Norfolk Island, as recommended by Sir John Call, to take advantage for naval purposes of that island's native flax and timber. Phillip's fleet sailed from Portsmouth in May 1787.

Governor of New South Wales[edit]

In October 1786, Phillip was appointed captain of HMS Sirius and named Governor-designate of New South Wales, the proposed British colony on the east coast of Australia, by Lord Sydney, the Home Secretary.

Phillip had a very difficult time assembling the fleet which was to make the eight-month sea voyage to Australia. Everything a new colony might need had to be taken, since Phillip had no real idea of what he might find when he got there. There were few funds available for equipping the expedition. His suggestion that people with experience in farming, building and crafts be included was rejected. Most of the 772 convicts (of whom 732 survived the voyage) were petty thieves from the London slums. Phillip was accompanied by a contingent of marines and a handful of other officers who were to administer the colony.

The 11 ships of the First Fleet set sail on 13 May 1787. The leading ship, HMS Supply reached Botany Bay setting up camp on the Kurnell Peninsula,[16] on 18 January 1788. Phillip soon decided that this site, chosen on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks, who had accompanied James Cook in 1770, was not suitable, since it had poor soil, no secure anchorage and no reliable water source. After some exploration Phillip decided to go on to Port Jackson, and on 26 January the marines and convicts were landed at Sydney Cove, which Phillip named after Lord Sydney.

Shortly after establishing the settlement at Port Jackson, on 15 February 1788, Phillip sent Lieutenant Philip Gidley King with 8 free men and a number of convicts to establish the second British colony in the Pacific at Norfolk Island. This was partly in response to a perceived threat of losing Norfolk Island to the French and partly to establish an alternative food source for the new colony.

Arthur Phillip

The early days of the settlement were chaotic and difficult. With limited supplies, the cultivation of food was imperative, but the soils around Sydney were poor, the climate was unfamiliar, and moreover very few of the convicts had any knowledge of agriculture. Farming tools were scarce and the convicts were unwilling farm labourers. The colony was on the verge of outright starvation for an extended period. The marines, poorly disciplined themselves in many cases, were not interested in convict discipline. Almost at once, therefore, Phillip had to appoint overseers from among the ranks of the convicts to get the others working. This was the beginning of the process of convict emancipation which was to culminate in the reforms of Lachlan Macquarie after 1811.

Phillip showed in other ways that he recognised that New South Wales could not be run simply as a prison camp. Lord Sydney, often criticised as an ineffectual incompetent, had made one fundamental decision about the settlement that was to influence it from the start. Instead of just establishing it as a military prison, he provided for a civil administration, with courts of law. Two convicts, Henry and Susannah Kable, sought to sue Duncan Sinclair, the captain of Alexander, for stealing their possessions during the voyage. Convicts in Britain had no right to sue, and Sinclair had boasted that he could not be sued by them. Someone in Government obviously had a quiet word in Kable's ear, as when the court met and Sinclair challenged the prosecution on the ground that the Kables were felons, the court required him to prove it. As all the convict records had been left behind in England, he could not do so, and the court ordered the captain to make restitution. Further, soon after Lord Sydney appointed him governor of New South Wales Arthur Phillip drew up a detailed memorandum of his plans for the proposed new colony. In one paragraph he wrote: "The laws of this country [England] will of course, be introduced in [New] South Wales, and there is one that I would wish to take place from the moment his Majesty's forces take possession of the country: That there can be no slavery in a free land, and consequently no slaves",[17] and he meant what he said. Nevertheless, Phillip believed in discipline, and floggings and hangings were commonplace, although Philip commuted many death sentences.

Phillip also had to adopt a policy towards the Eora Aboriginal people, who lived around the waters of Sydney Harbour. Phillip ordered that they must be well-treated, and that anyone killing Aboriginal people would be hanged. Phillip befriended an Eora man called Bennelong, and later took him to England. On the beach at Manly, a misunderstanding arose and Phillip was speared in the shoulder: but he ordered his men not to retaliate. Phillip went some way towards winning the trust of the Eora, although the settlers were at all times treated extremely warily. Soon, a virulent disease, smallpox that was believed to be on account of the white settlers, and other European-introduced epidemics, ravaged the Eora population.

The Governor's main problem was with his own military officers, who wanted large grants of land, which Phillip had not been authorised to grant. The officers were expected to grow food, but they considered this beneath them. As a result scurvy broke out, and in October 1788 Phillip had to send Sirius to Cape Town for supplies, and strict rationing was introduced, with thefts of food punished by hanging. Arthur Phillip quoted "The living conditions need to improve or my men won't work as hard, so I have come to a conclusion that I must hire surgeons to fix the convicts."

Stabilising the colony[edit]

Despite Phillip's earlier order that Aboriginal Australians must never be slain, and his insistence that no retaliation be taken to avenge his own non-fatal spearing, Phillip's stance toward Aboriginals changed markedly after the death of his gamekeeper, John MacIntyre. After being fatally wounded by an Aboriginal man, on his deathbed, MacIntyre confessed to a priest that he had exhibited cruelty to Aboriginals. MacIntyre, suspected of hunting more than just game, was dreaded by Bennelong and other Aboriginals, and is believed to have been wounded in retribution for the Aboriginals he had killed. Nevertheless, Phillip, alarmed and outraged, made a surprising move, ordering that the Natives be made severe examples of. He ordered a party to capture six Natives the very next day, 14 December 1790, and put them to death.[18]

Lieutenant William Dawes and colleague Watkin Tench, who were ordered to lead the revenge party, expressed disgust at the idea. Dawes and Tench had befriended the Aboriginals, and Dawes was even reported to have engaged in a relationship with an Aboriginal woman. Tench revealed in his journal that he had been given provisions for three days, ropes to bind the Aboriginal victims, and bags to collect their severed heads. However, the fleet was uncooperative. Phillip, growing frustrated with the burdens of upholding a colony and his health suffering, resigned soon after this episode.[18][19]

By 1790 the situation had stabilised. The population of about 2,000 was adequately housed and fresh food was being grown. Phillip assigned a convict, James Ruse, land at Rose Hill (now Parramatta) to establish proper farming, and when Ruse succeeded he received the first land grant in the colony. Other convicts followed his example. Sirius was wrecked in March 1790 at the satellite settlement of Norfolk Island, depriving Phillip of vital supplies. In June 1790 the Second Fleet arrived with hundreds more convicts, most of them too sick to work.

Statue of Arthur Phillip in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

By December 1790 Phillip was ready to return to England, but the colony had largely been forgotten in London and no instructions reached him, so he carried on. In 1791 he was advised that the government would send out two convoys of convicts annually, plus adequate supplies. But July, when the vessels of the Third Fleet began to arrive, with 2,000 more convicts, food again ran short, and he had to send a ship to Calcutta for supplies.

By 1792 the colony was well established, though Sydney remained an unplanned huddle of wooden huts and tents. The whaling industry was established, ships were visiting Sydney to trade, and convicts whose sentences had expired were taking up farming. John Macarthur and other officers were importing sheep and beginning to grow wool. The colony was still very short of skilled farmers, craftsmen and tradesmen, and the convicts continued to work as little as possible, even though they were working mainly to grow their own food.

In late 1792 Phillip, whose health was suffering from the poor diet, at last received permission to leave, and on 11 December 1792 he sailed in the ship Atlantic, taking with him many specimens of plants and animals. He also took Bennelong and his friend Yemmerrawanyea, another young Indigenous Australian who, unlike Bennelong, would succumb to English weather and disease and not live to make the journey home. The European population of New South Wales at his departure was 4,221, of whom 3,099 were convicts. The early years of the colony had been years of struggle and hardship, but the worst was over, and there were no further famines in New South Wales. Phillip arrived in London in May 1793. He tendered his formal resignation and was granted a pension of £500 a year.[20]

Later life[edit]

Phillip's wife, Margaret, had died in 1792. Margaret Charlotte Phillip is buried with her companion Mrs Cane at St Beuno's Churchyard, Llanycil, Bala, Merionethshire. In 1794 he married Isabella Whitehead, and lived for a time at Bath. His health gradually recovered and in 1796 he went back to sea, holding a series of commands and responsible posts in the wars against the French. In January 1799 he became a Rear-Admiral. In 1805, aged 67, he retired from the Navy with the rank of Admiral of the Blue, and spent most of the rest of his life at Bath. He continued to correspond with friends in New South Wales and to promote the colony's interests with government officials. He died in Bath in 1814.[21]

The Australia Chapel in St Nicholas Church, Bathampton, near Bath, England. The memorial to the first governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip, is on the right hand wall

Phillip was buried in St Nicholas's Church, Bathampton. Forgotten for many years, the grave was discovered in 1897[22] and the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes who also started federation in Australia, had it restored. An annual service of remembrance is held here around Phillip's birthdate by the Britain–Australia Society to commemorate his life. A monument to Phillip in Bath Abbey Church was unveiled in 1937. Another was unveiled at St Mildred's Church, Bread St, London, in 1932; that church was destroyed in the London Blitz in 1940, but the principal elements of the monument were re-erected in St Mary-le-Bow at the west end of Watling Street, near Saint Paul's Cathedral, in 1968.[23] There is a statue of him in the Botanic Gardens, Sydney. There is a portrait of him by Francis Wheatley in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Percival Serle wrote of Phillip in his Dictionary of Australian Biography:

Steadfast in mind, modest, without self seeking, Phillip had imagination enough to conceive what the settlement might become, and the common sense to realize what at the moment was possible and expedient. When almost everyone was complaining he never himself complained, when all feared disaster he could still hopefully go on with his work. He was sent out to found a convict settlement, he laid the foundations of a great dominion.[24]

Loss of remains[edit]

In 2007, Geoffrey Robertson QC alleged that Phillip's remains are no longer in St Nicholas Church, Bathampton and have been lost: "...Captain Arthur Phillip is not where the ledger stone says he is: it may be that he is buried somewhere outside, it may simply be that he is simply lost. But he is not where Australians have been led to believe that he now lies."[25] Robertson also believes it was a "disgraceful slur" on Phillip's legacy that he was not buried in one of England's great cathedrals and was relegated to a small village church. Robertson is campaigning for a rigorous search for the remains, which he believes should be re-interred in Australia.

In his honour[edit]

His name is commemorated in Australia by Port Phillip, Phillip Island (Victoria), Phillip Island, the federal electorate of Phillip (1949–1993), the suburb of Phillip in Canberra, the Governor Phillip Tower building in Sydney, and many streets, parks and schools including a state high school in Parramatta.

Popular culture[edit]

Phillip is a prominent character in Timberlake Wertenbaker's play Our Country's Good, in which he commissions Lieutenant Ralph Clark to stage a production of The Recruiting Officer. He is shown as compassionate and just, but receives little support from his fellow officers. He is also prominent in Banished and is played by David Wenham.

Phillip is referred to in the John Williamson song "Chains around my ankle".

Kate Grenville's 2008 novel The Lieutenant portrays Phillip through the character Commodore James Gilbert.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Morison, Samuel Eliot (22 May 1944). "The Gilberts & Marshalls: A distinguished historian recalls the past of two recently captured pacific groups". Life magazine. Retrieved 14 October 2009. 
  2. ^ Pembroke, Michael (2013). Arthur Phillip: sailor, mercenary, governor, spy. Richmond, Victoria: Hardie Grant Books. ISBN 9781742705088. 
  3. ^ Maurine Goldston-Morris, OAM, The Life of Admiral Arthur Phillip, RN, 1738–1814, Naval Historical Society of Australia Monograph No.58, Garden Island, [1997].
  4. ^ See for example, The World, 16 April 1789: "BOTANY BAY.— Mr. Philip, who has this command, has the aid of experience. He had a similar expedition entrusted him by PORTUGAL, to carry convicts to South America.".
  5. ^ The St. James's Chronicle, The London Chronicle, The Daily Advertiser, The Gazetteer and The Public Advertiser, 16 September 1777.
  6. ^ King, Robert J. (25–29 October 1999). Arthur Phillip Defensor de Colónia, Governador de Nova Gales do Sul [Arthur Phillip: Defender of Colônia, Governor of New South Wales] (Speech). V Simpósio de HistóriaMarítimo e Naval Iber-americano,. Ilha Fiscal, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Vancouver Island University. 
  7. ^ Viscount Keppel, First Lord of the Admiralty, to Townshend, 25 September 1782; Clements Library (Ann Arbor), Sydney Papers, 9; British Library, India and Oriental, H 175, f.237; quoted in Alan Frost, Arthur Phillip, 1987, p.114.
  8. ^ Phillip to Sandwich, 17 January 1781; National Maritime Museum (Greenwich), Sandwich Papers, F/26/23.
  9. ^ Blankett to Shelburne, August 1782; Clements Library (Ann Arbor), Sydney Papers, 9; quoted in Alan Frost, Arthur Phillip, p.114.
  10. ^ Admiralty Lords to Kingsmill, 17 December 1782, National Archives, Kew, ADM 2/113: 522–3; Kingsmill to Admiralty Lords, 1 January 1783, National Archives, Kew, ADM 1/2015; Keppel to Middleton, 17 December 1782, National Archives, Kew, HO 28/2: 410–1; quoted in Alan Frost, Arthur Phillip, Melbourne, OUP, 1987, p.114.
  11. ^ National Archives, Kew, ADM 51/354; ADM 2/113; quoted in Alan Frost, Arthur Phillip, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1987, p.114. The departure of the squadron from Portsmouth was reported in The General Evening Post, The London Chronicle, 18 January, The Morning Post, 20 January 1783; Phillip's return to Portsmouth in the Europe was reported in The Whitehall Evening Post, 24 April 1784.
  12. ^ India Office Records, H 175, f.237; quoted in Alan Frost, Convicts & Empire: A Naval Question, 1776 1811, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1980, p.209. Phillip used the contemporary Portuguese spelling for Montevideo.
  13. ^ Alan Frost, Arthur Phillip, His Voyaging, Melbourne, OUP, 1987, pp.129–133.
  14. ^ Alan Frost, Convicts & Empire: A Naval Question, 1776 1811, Melbourne, Oxford U.P., 1980, pp.115–116, 129.
  15. ^ James Matra to Banks, 28 July 1783, British Library Additional MS 33979: 206; published in Alan Frost, The Precarious Life of James Mario Matra, Melbourne University Press, 1995, p.110.
  16. ^ The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay With an Account of the Establishment of the Colonies of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island (1789) – from Project Gutenberg
  17. ^ Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 1, Part 2, Phillip 1783–1792, p 53
  18. ^ a b First Australians. Blackfella Films, SBS, and Screen Australia. 2008. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  19. ^ Watkin Tench, 1788 (ed: Tim Flannery), 1996, ISBN 1-875847-27-8, p. 167
  20. ^ Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip – Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy, Melbourne, Hardie Grant Books, 2013.
  21. ^ Broughton, W. (1 April 1815). "Sydney: Sitting Magistrate W. Broughton Esq.". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (G. Howe). p. 2. Retrieved 11 August 2007. 
  22. ^ St Nicholas Church, Bathampton, Burial place of Arthur Phillip
  23. ^ Details of move
  24. ^ Serle, Percival (1949). "Phillip, Arthur (1738–1814), admiral, and first governor of New South Wales". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Project Gutenberg Australia. Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  25. ^ Lost the plot

External links[edit]

Government offices
New district Governor of New South Wales
1788–1792
Succeeded by
John Hunter