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Major General Lachlan Macquarie

Scottish, 1762 - 1824

Major General Lachlan Macquarie was born on 31 January 1761 on the Isle of Ulva, in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland. His army career began in 1776, when at the age of 15 he accompanied his uncle to North America as a volunteer. After returning to Scotland for a few years and working on the family farm, Macquarie then took a posting in India in 1788. While serving in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Lachlan was based principally in Bombay, where he met and married his first wife Jane Jarvis. Jane died however three years later and Macquarie by all accounts was devastated. He later took a posting in Egypt as part of the British expedition to defeat Napoleon and expel the French. Macquarie eventually returned to England in 1803 but returned to India in 1805 where he was promoted to Military Secretary to Governor there. After two years in this role Macquarie travelled overland back to London where he married his cousin Elizabeth Campbell in 1807. After some time spent back in Scotland, Macquarie and Elizabeth sailed to Sydney to fulfil his newly appointed role as Governor of New South Wales.
His time as Governor was marked by great achievements, hardships, challenges and no small amount of conflict. He inherited a host of problems resulting from the leadership of William Bligh including an influential New South Wales Corps. Macquarie bought with him his own regiment however and his military background, as the British government had hoped when selecting him, stood him in good stead for dealing with this element.
Over the course of his tenure, Macquarie was instrumental in exploring and opening up new inland territory, organizing the city, upgrading infrastructure and creating the first curerncy and independent bank for the colony. However, he was most noted for his championing of emancipated convicts. His recognition of their talents and skills (including the architect Francis Greenway) did not recommend him to the local free setters who believed themselves a class above. The British Government was also aggrieved as it still saw New South Wales as a primarily penal colony and disagreed with Macquarie’s expenditure on public buildings and services. As a result an inquiry was held into his policies and its conclusion found in favour of the free settlers. The report also recommended that no Governor should be allowed to rule independently in the future and in 1824 the New South Wales Legislative Council, Australia's first legislative body, was established as an advisory body. Macquarie resigned over the report in 1821 and returned to Scotland with Elizabeth and their son.
Macquarie died in London in 1824 whilst attempting to defend himself against the accusations against him. Although not recognized in his lifetime, Macquarie’s vision of Australia as a viable colony rather than prison has seen him in later years noted as an enlightened and progressive Governor.