Governor Thomas Brisbane

(July 23, 1773 – January 27, 1860)

(previous … Road Over the Blue Mountains)

In 1821 Governor Macquarie left for England, with sad regrets from the colonists. The only serious mistake of his policy had been that he had quietly discouraged the introduction of free settlers, “because” as he said, ” the colony is intended for convicts, and free settlers have no business here.”

Successor to Macquarie

His successor Sir Thomas Brisbane, and afterward, Sir Ralph Darling, adopted a more liberal policy and offered every encouragement to free immigrants to make their homes in the colony. It was never found possible, however, to obtain many of the class which had been so successful in America, consisting of men, who had with difficulty gathered sufficient money for their passages, landed in their adopted country without means and with no resources beyond the cheerful labour of themselves and their families, yet settled down in the deep, untrodden forests, and there made for themselves happy and prosperous homes. This was not the class of immigrants who arrived in New South Wales during the times of Governor Brisbane and Governor Darling. For in 1818 free passages to Australia had been abolished and the voyage was so long and so expensive that a poor man could scarcely hope to accomplish it. Hence, those who arrived in Sydney were generally young men of good education, who brought with them a few hundred pounds and not only were willing to labour themselves but were able to employ the labour of others.


In America, the “squatter” was a man who farmed a small piece of land. In Australia, he was one who bought a flock of sheep and carried them out to the pasture lands, where, as they increased year by year, he grew rich with the annual produce of their wool. Sir Thomas Brisbane was pleased with the arrival of men of this class. He gave them grants of land and assigned to them as many convicts as they were able to afford. Very soon the fine lands of the colony were covered with flocks and herds and the applications for convicts became so numerous that, at one point, two thousand more were demanded than could be supplied. Hence began an important change in the colony. The costly government farms were, one after another broken up and the convicts assigned to the squatters. The result was that numerous public works were abandoned, as many of these had begun poorly to occupy the prisoners. This turned out to be a good thing as scattered convicts were much

more manageable and much more likely to reform than when gathered in large and corrupting groups. In Governor Macquarie’s time, not one convict in ten could be usefully employed, however, seven or eight years later, there was not a convict in the colony whose services would not be eagerly sought and well paid for by the squatters.

Governor Brisbane Recalled

This important change took place under Governors Brisbane and Darling yet strangely neither one of them were popular. Brisbane, who entered office in 1821 was a fine old soldier, a thorough gentleman, honourable and upright in all his ways. Yet it could not be doubted that he was out of his sphere when conducting the affairs of a young colony and in 1825 the British Government found it necessary to recall him.

(continues … Governor Ralph Darling)