Arthur Kennedy (governor)

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Sir Arthur Kennedy
7th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
16 April 1872 – 22 April 1877
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell
Succeeded by Sir John Pope Hennessy
5th Governor of Queensland
In office
20 July 1877 – 2 May 1883
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by William Cairns
Succeeded by Anthony Musgrave
Personal details
Born (1809-04-05)5 April 1809
County Down, Ireland
Died 3 June 1883(1883-06-03) (aged 74)
near Aden in the Red Sea
Spouse(s) Georgina MacCartney
Children 2 daughters, 1 son
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin
Profession soldier, colonial administrator
Arthur Kennedy
Traditional Chinese 堅尼地

Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy GCMG CB (Chinese: 堅尼地, 5 April 1809 – 3 June 1883) was a British colonial administrator who served as governor of a number of British colonies, namely Sierra Leone, Western Australia, Vancouver Island, Hong Kong and Queensland.

Early life and career[edit]

Arthur Kennedy was born in Cultra, County Down, Ireland on 5 April 1809, the fourth son of Hugh Kennedy and his wife Grace Dorothea (née Hughes). He was educated by private tutor and in 1823–24 attended Trinity College, Dublin, where he met his predecessor as Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell.

Kennedy entered the British Army, and was gazetted an Ensign in the 11th Foot on 15 August 1827. Until 1837 he served with infantry regiments on Corfu. He spent 1838–1839 and 1841–1844 in British North America. In 1841 he purchased a Captaincy in the 68th Foot.

Kennedy returned to Ireland in 1846, and the following year sold his captaincy and took up an appointment with the Poor Law Commission. His job was to administer relief to the many inhabitants of County Clare who were affected by the Potato Famine.He was shocked by what he saw and had serious differences with the local Landlord, Colonel Crofton Moore Vandeleur.[1]

Colonial services[edit]

In 1851, the famine having ended, Kennedy's position was abolished, and he applied for a position in the Colonial Service. In May 1852 he was appointed Governor of The Gambia, but before assuming office he was appointed Governor of Sierra Leone instead. He served in this office until 1854, during which time he made many administrative changes in an attempt to reform the corrupt and inefficient government.

Governor of Western Australia[edit]

In 1854, Kennedy was promoted to the position of Governor of Western Australia. He took up the position the following year, serving until 1862. He reputedly had an autocratic manner and was considered a despot by many Western Australians. Popular opinion quickly turned against him, and in August 1856 a public meeting was held in Perth to protest against his methods. During his tenure as governor, Western Australia flourished, essentially because of the large amount of British money that was spent in the colony under the system of penal transportation of convicts. However, when Kennedy resigned in 1862, he claimed that much of the colony's success was due to his legislative efforts. On his return to England, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the Bath (CB).

Governor of Vancouver Island[edit]

Kennedy's next appointment came in July 1863. The decision had been made that Vancouver Island and British Columbia, which had previously been governed together by a single governor (Sir James Douglas), were each to have their own governor, and Kennedy was appointed Governor of Vancouver Island. Compared to his previous appointments, Vancouver Island was comparatively insignificant, and might be considered a demotion. Kennedy arrived at Vancouver Island in March 1864. Facing an extremely aggressive Legislative Assembly determined to challenge his executive power, Kennedy achieved little of note in his two years in office. During this time the colony fell into a disastrous economic depression, and Kennedy was unfairly blamed by the colony's inhabitants. With the creation of the United Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, Kennedy left office in October 1866.

Governor of the West African Settlements[edit]

Kennedy returned to London, and in December 1867 he was knighted (KCB) and appointed Governor of the West African Settlements. He served there until 1872. In 1871 he was created a KCMG.

Governor of Hong Kong[edit]

In 1872, Kennedy was appointed the 7th Governor of Hong Kong, a position in which he served until 1877. During his tenure, he created the Hong Kong dollar, which served as the unitary monetary unit for the territory. Since this time, the Hong Kong dollar has (albeit with a short period of disruption) served as the single monetary unit for the entire territory. He also developed Kennedy Town, the western end of Victoria City on the Hong Kong Island. Sir Arthur’s style of governing was to do as little as possible and to be nice to everyone.[2] ‘Don’t rock the boat’ became a cornerstone of Hong Kong’s political philosophy. Hong Kong prospered during this period.

Governor of Queensland[edit]

After his appointment as Governor of Hong Kong expired, Kennedy was immediately appointed Governor of Queensland, serving in that position until 1883. That was his last post in the Colonial Service. In 1881, Kennedy was created a GCMG.

Later life[edit]

On his resignation as Governor of Queensland, Kennedy boarded the Orient with the intention of returning to England. On 3 June 1883, when the Orient was off Aden in the Red Sea, Kennedy died. He was buried at sea.

Personal life[edit]

In 1839, Kennedy married Georgina MacCartney, who died on 3 October 1874. They had two daughters and a son, Arthur Herbert Williams, who entered the army. His daughter, Elizabeth, married Richard Meade, 4th Earl of Clanwilliam. Kennedy's other daughter, Georgina Mildred, was honoured by having the Georgina River named after her in 1880, during his time in office in Queensland. William Landsborough had named this river the Herbert in 1861, but it was decided that it needed a new name because there was another river in Queensland that had that same name.[3]

Places named after him[edit]

See also[edit]


Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell
Governor of The Gambia
Succeeded by
Luke Smythe O'Connor
Preceded by
Norman William MacDonald
Governor of Sierra Leone
Succeeded by
Robert Dougan, acting
Preceded by
Charles Fitzgerald
Governor of Western Australia
Succeeded by
John Stephen Hampton
Preceded by
Sir James Douglas
Governor of Vancouver Island
Post abolished
Preceded by
John Jennings Kendall, acting
Governor of Sierra Leone
Succeeded by
Sir John Pope Hennessy
Preceded by
Sir Richard Graves Macdonell
Governor of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Sir John Pope Hennessy
Preceded by
Sir William Wellington Cairns
Governor of Queensland
Succeeded by
Sir Anthony Musgrave