Robert Campbell (1769 – 1846) merchant, pastoralist, politician and philanthropist
Governor William Bligh was told that Robert Campbell had performed ‘the greatest services to the inhabitants . . . that the price of his merchandise was the same in time of scarcity as in abundance, that he had advanced a great sum of money, and protected the poor and distressed settler; and that in fact he was the only private pillar which supported the honest people of the Colony’.
Campbell, now a man of substance and identified with colonial aspirations, returned to the colony in his Albion in August 1806. Governor William Bligh was told that he had performed ‘the greatest services to the inhabitants . . . that the price of his merchandise was the same in time of scarcity as in abundance, that he had advanced a great sum of money, and protected the poor and distressed settler; and that in fact he was the only private pillar which supported the honest people of the Colony’.
Campbell, whom Bligh ‘always found … just and humane and a gentleman like merchant’, was drawn into the restricted colonial society which gravitated around the governor. Bligh, convinced of dormant opposition to his regime, turned to the merchant for advice and support. Campbell, with an intimate knowledge of the colonial economy, quickly became involved in public administration.
In May 1807 he was appointed a magistrate and Naval Officer, and in June he became, in effect, colonial treasurer when management of the police and orphan funds devolved on him. As Naval Officer Campbell became responsible for the official action taken to retrieve the spirit stills illegally imported by John Macarthur. During the events which culminated in the deposition of Bligh, Campbell showed himself active and courageous.
For many years Campbell was associated with the London Missionary Society which acknowledged his ‘constant kindness and effective acts of friendship shewn towards our Society and its concerns’.
The society’s missionary activity in the Pacific was early blended with speculative trading and Campbell acted for it as agent, banker and supplier at half his usual commission. Campbell also was friendly with the society’s agent, Samuel Marsden, who furnished him with an introduction to William Wilberforce on his first visit to England.[ There is considerable information available on both William Wilberforce and Samuel Marsden ]
Campbell transacted Marsden’s personal business during his absences from the colony and bought sheep for him in England. In 1807 and 1820 he acted as agent for the society in place of Marsden.
In 1825 Campbell was appointed one of the trustees for land granted to the society at Yawanba (Reid’s Mistake) for an Aboriginal mission. This connexion perhaps drew Campbell more closely into ecclesiastical society. In 1808 Rowland Hassall, a former missionary and another of his intimates, acknowledged Campbell’s generous subscription of thirty guineas to the Portland Head Society for the Progagation of Christian Knowledge.
Bred a Presbyterian, he was connected with this church’s activities for many years, endowing and attending Scots Church in Sydney. In August 1828 he signed a petition for government assistance for the salary of a schoolteacher for a school connected with this church and in 1831 was signatory to a petition for government aid for support of an itinerant minister of the Scottish National Church.
In 1842 he joined the Presbyterians of New South Wales in their request that the government-supported stipend of two Presbyterian ministers be continued. A growing connexion with the Church of England, strengthened by the affiliations of his wife and intimates was emphasized by generous endowments.
He supported the plans and petitions which preceded the establishment of The King’s Schools at Sydney and Parramatta in 1832. Campbell’s interest in St John’s Church at Canberra provided for at least half the cost of construction. In 1837 he gave land and money towards the cost of building St Peter’s Church, Cook’s River, and contributed funds towards an Anglican cathedral for Sydney.
Other churches, at South Bargo, Yass and St Philip’s in Sydney, shared in his bounty. During his later years he was increasingly attracted by the stability of the Church of England and in March 1843 Bishop William Grant Broughton administered his first Communion to him in a church of his own building. Campbell died at Duntroon on 15 April 1846, and was buried at St John’s, Parramatta.
The Canberra suburb of Campbell was named after Robert Campbell
http://www.actpla.act.gov.au/tools_resources/maps_land_survey/place_names/place_search (search Campbell)
William Wilberforce, the Clapham Cabinet, and ‘Liberating the Captives’ in Australia
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