Australia in the 1810s


Governor Lachlan Macquarie


Lachlan Macquarie was sworn in as governor of the Colony of New South Wales on New Year's Day in 1810. His instructions from the Secretary of State to the colonies, Viscount Castlereagh (1788–1825) emphasised that Macquarie needed to: improve the moral and social conduct of colonists, particularly to moderate the consumption of alcohol; increase the number of women in the colony with a view to increasing the number of colonial marriages; and support pastoral and agricultural expansion so that the colony could become self-sufficient. He introduced new regulations for the granting of tickets-of-leave, rewarding some former convicts with government commissions. One such ticket-of-leave convict was Francis Greenway (1777–1837), who Macquarie appointed as chief architect.

Macquarie set about fulfilling Castlereagh's orders regarding social reform by issuing a proclamation condemning unmarried couples living together. He restricted the trading of alcohol by cancelling public house licences and decreasing their number from 75 to 20. Public houses were ordered to close during church services. He introduced a regular church parade for convicts in government employment. Swearing in public was prohibited, particularly on Sundays, and he opened more schools in Sydney and outlying areas to improve the morals and prospects of future generations.

Additionally, Macquarie adopted his own vision for the colony, which included a predominantly free settler society coexisting with a penal settlement. As his governorship coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of convicts, he developed an extensive public works program to use the free labour for the construction of essential infrastructure including a new general hospital, a turnpike road to Parramatta and churches in Sydney and its surroundings.

Macquarie expressed an interest in living peacefully with Aboriginal groups in the area. However, he did not understand the complexity and diversity of Indigenous cultures across the country. He believed that Indigenous people needed to be assimilated, and so he established institutions to 'educate' Indigenous people in British ways of life.

Macquarie tried to curtail the excessive use of corporal punishment by magistrates and tightened up the pass regulations. He ordered the construction of new barracks in Sydney, Parramatta and Windsor for the better control of the 'government' convicts. In 1810, he had convicts carve a sandstone seat for his wife, Elizabeth, overlooking Sydney Harbour and facing north-east towards Fort Denison and the Pacific Ocean.

Regardless of his visionary policies and hard work, Macquarie returned home to England criticised by the landowners and the Colonial Office for his emancipist policy and for his perceived leniency towards the convicts. After 11 years of his governorship, he left the New South Wales colony, including Van Diemen's Land, a much larger and more efficiently run society. During his time, the population of the colony tripled, the number of sheep and cattle multiplied by more than ten times, and land under cultivation increased substantially. Macquarie left a well-developed system of roads, bridges, public buildings and gardens.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie_1810


A snapshot of 1818

  • January
    • Celebrations were held on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the colony.

  • March
    • Samuel Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services had been dispensed with.

  • May
    • A regular mail service started operating between Hobart Town and Launceston.

  • June
    • The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was formed under Government Macquarie's patronage.

  • November
    • A lantern was lit for the first time at the Macquarie Tower lighthouse at South Head.
    • John Oxley names Castlereagh, the Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, and crossed the Great Dividing Range to reach Port Macquarie.
    • The legendary Aboriginal tracker Bundle and another Aboriginal man, Broughton, accompanied Charles Throsby on an expedition south.

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