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Governor Ralph Darling was never popular. During the greater part of his period in office intrigues were continually on foot to obtain his recall and from this state of feeling there arose what has been called the newspaper war, which lasted for 4 years with great violence.

Sydney Gazette

The first Australian newspaper had been established in 1803 by a convict named Howe. It was greatly supported by the Government and the Governors always exercised the right to forbid the insertion of what they didn’t like. Hence the paper, Sydney Gazette, was considered to be a Government tool and accordingly reflected the opinions of the Governors. Thus the paper was greatly mistrusted. But, during the time of Governor Thomas Brisbane, an independent newspaper, the Australian, was established by Mr Wentworth and Dr Wardell.

The second kind of newspaper soon followed called the Monitor. These papers found it to their advantage, during the unpopularity of Darling, to criticize severely the acts of the Governor, who was being defended by the Gazette with great zeal. This kind of journalistic fighting lasted for quite a while when in the third year of Darling’s administration, a very small event was sufficient to set the whole colony in an uproar.

Sudds and Thompson

A somewhat bright spark soldier named Sudds persuaded his companion, Thompson, that their prospects were not great if they remained soldiers, but if they became convicts, they had a fairly good chance of becoming rich and prosperous. So they entered a shop and stole a piece of cloth. They were tried, convicted and sentenced to be transported to Tasmania for seven years. This is what they wanted, but Governor Darling having got wind of their scheme, took it upon himself to alter the course of the law and ordered that they be chained together with heavily spiked iron collars placed around their necks and be set to work on the roads. Sudds who was suffering from liver disease, couldn’t cope with the severity of the punishment and died within a few days. Whilst Thompson simply went insane. This was an excellent opportunity for the opposition papers, which immediately attacked the Governor for what they called his illegal interference and brutality. The Gazette filled its columns with the most fulsome flattery in Darling’s defense and Darling himself was so shameless in getting involved in the dispute and do what he could to infuriate the editors of the two opposing and hostile papers.

Governor Darling Recalled To England

Very soon the whole colony was divided, the ones who defended the actions of the Governor and the other side denouncing him as the most cowardly and brutal of men. For four long years, the newspapers fought through their words, till eventually, the opponents of Darling won the day. In 1831 Governor Darling was recalled by the English Government.

(continues … Governor Richard Bourke)