John Hunter

John Hunter (1863 – 1940) businessman and politician
John Hunter was the second Governor of New South Wales. The son of William Hunter, a captain in the merchant service, John was born in Leith, Scotland on 29 August 1737. He was educated at Edinburgh and was to enter Aberdeen University to study for the Presbyterian ministry, but in 1754 he decided to enter the navy instead.

John Hunter was the second Governor of New South Wales. The son of William Hunter, a captain in the merchant service, John was born in Leith, Scotland on 29 August 1737. He was educated at Edinburgh and was to enter Aberdeen University to study for the Presbyterian ministry, but in 1754 he decided to enter the navy instead.

He had considerable experience on North Atlantic and West Indies Stations as a ship’s master. Then, in 1786, he was appointed Second Captain to Phillip on the Sirius, and received a dormant commission to govern the colony in the event of Phillip’s absence or death. An able navigator, Hunter was one of the first men to circumnavigate the world from east to west. In 1788-89, he sailed the Sirius east in Antarctic waters to the Cape, via New Zealand and Cape Horn, to pick up much needed stores.  A year later his ship, the Sirius, was wrecked on Norfolk Island, where he and his men were marooned for 11 months. (This was the third shipwreck Hunter had survived. In the two instances in which he was captain, he was acquitted.) Hunter’s other duties during Phillip’s administration included that of magistrate, and of surveyor of the rivers and harbours around Port Jackson and the Hawkesbury River area.

Hunter’s difficulties as governor commenced immediately after Phillip’s departure, when the military had taken complete control, and during the lieutenant-governorship of Francis Grose. Governor Hunter tried to restore civil administration and justice, but found himself practically helpless in the face of the monopoly established by Grose and Macarthur. In order to get rid of Hunter, Macarthur wrote a letter to the Duke of Portland in London, charging the governor with mismanagement of colonial administration and agriculture. Hunter’s eyes were later opened to “the horrid depravity and wickedness of Macarthur’s heart”.

His opinion of Macarthur as a “busybody” motivated by self-interest was expressed in a letter to Under Secretary King on 1 June 1797. On the same date the governor wrote to the Duke of Portland, giving his side of the story, but it did no good. Hunter lost the power struggle against the military officers and the battle against the rum trade. He was recalled in 1799. In spite of the abuses he suffered, he looked to God for his support; he talked and wrote of Christ as his Saviour and Protector against the injustices and cruelties of men.

He was also known for his unimpeachable morals, though he never married. His successor, Philip Gidley King, said his conduct was “guided by the most upright intentions”. Hunter has been criticised for his lack of administrative foresight in a time when the colony was struggling for survival. He seemed unable to grasp the importance for the economy of promoting trade.

He also did not understand that the real problem of the small land-holders, who were forced off their farms, was not rum but high prices. His main contribution as governor was possibly to bring to the attention of the English government that there was an administrative problem. At first, the authorities would not listen, so Hunter decided to state his case in print. In 1802, he published a 72-page booklet, Remarks on the Causes of Colonial Expense of the Establishment of New South Wales.

The evidence was convincing; therefore, Hunter was exonerated and became recognised as an authority on New South Wales affairs. Several of his suggested reforms, including revision of the criminal code, improved law courts, the establishment of an advisory council to the governor, the introduction of trial by jury, and the development of a reliable police force were gradually introduced. Hunter made other valuable contributions to the colony. He supported the explorations of Flinders and Bass, and explored and opened up much of the land near Sydney. He had a great interest in natural science and promoted expeditions that resulted in the discovery of the koala, wombat, platypus and lyrebird. Hunter’s accounts and drawings of these strange creatures appeared in Collin’s Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, dated November 1797.

While Hunter had not been able to break the control of the “exclusives” over the colony, the next two governors, King and William Bligh, did not fare any better. This situation led to the Rum Rebellion, when the officers finally succeeded in taking over control of the colony from Governor Bligh. To regain control of the colony, the British Government chose Lachlan Macquarie, a military man

Source : http://www.chr.org.au/fpbooks/SL/slhs9.html

also : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A010529b.htm

More on Lachlan Macquarie – https://atributetoaustralianchristians.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/lachlan-macquarie/

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