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Arthur Phillip Esq.

Date: 1789
Overall: 233 x 143 mm
Medium: Stipple engraving on paper.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00000841
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    This engraving is a portrait of Captain Arthur Phillip, the commander of the First Fleet which brought the first European settlers to the Australian continent in 1788. Phillip was the first Governor of the Colony of New South Wales. This work is copied from an original picture painted by Francis Wheatley, and Phillip is shown holding an architectural drawing.
    SignificanceDespite his pivotal role in the European settlement of Australia, portraits of Arthur Phillip are relatively rare. This engraving of Phillip shows him holding an architectural plan, which is symbolic of his role as founder of the town of Sydney in 1788.
    HistoryArthur Phillip (1738-1814) entered the navy in 1755 and was rated Post Captain in 1786. He was subsequently ranked Commodore of the fleet of eleven ships carrying the first European settlers to Australia. Phillip took supreme control as the first Governor of the Colony of New South Wales once the fleet arrived at Sydney Cove. He retained the position until 1792 when Captain John Hunter was appointed Governor.

    Since the early 1600s European societies used the transportation of criminals overseas as a form of punishment. When in the 18th century, the death penalty came to be regarded as too severe for certain capital offences, such as theft and larceny, transportation to North America became a popular form of sentence.

    The American War of Independence (1776-1781) put an end to the transportation of British convicts to America and many of the convicts in Great Britain's jails were instead sent to hulks (decommissioned naval vessels) on the River Thames and at Portsmouth, Plymouth, Cork and Dublin. In 1784, under the Transportation and Penitentiaries Act convicts could be exiled to colonies overseas.

    Between 1788 and 1868 over 168,000 men, women and children were transported from Britain to Australia as convicts on board more than 1,000 modified merchant ships which had been converted into convict transports.

    The first fleet of convict transports bound for the east coast of Australia set sail from Spithead on 13 May 1787 and was comprised of two naval vessels HMS SIRIUS and HMS SUPPLY, three store ships BORROWDALE, FISHBURN, and GOLDEN GROVE and six convict transports, ALEXANDER, FRIENDSHIP, LADY PENRHYN, SCARBOROUGH, PRINCE OF WALES, and CHARLOTTE.

    The British Government did not build specialised convict transports but instead chartered suitable ships from private ship owners.

    A settlement at Sydney Cove was established by Governor Arthur Phillip when he arrived with the First Fleet on 26 January 1788. The cove was named in honour of the British Home Secretary, Thomas Townsend, Lord Sydney and chosen as the site of settlement over Botany Bay because it offered both fresh water and a secure place for ships to anchor.

    Phillip described Sydney Cove as having 'the best spring of water, and in which the ships can anchor so close to the shore that at a very small expense quays may be made at which the largest ships may unload'. He aimed to establish a flourishing colony not just a penal site and supported plans to build a structured orderly town plan.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Arthur Phillip Esq. Captain General and Commander-in-Chief in and over The Territory of New South Wales

    Web title: Arthur Phillip Esq.

    Related People
    Engraver: W. Sherwin

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