Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of the New South Wales colony from 1810 to 1821, upheld high standards for the development of New South Wales from a penal colony to a free settlement. He introduced the first building code into the colony and greatly developed public infrastructure including roads, bridges, wharves, churches and public buildings. He encouraged former convicts and sought to treat the indigenous people fairly.
He was in brief one of our greatest viceroys.
And yet, his administration was the subject of an official investigation, a Royal Commission, by John Thomas Bigge brought on by some hostile establishment figures who regularly complained to London.
He encouraged exploration sending Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson across the Blue Mountains in1813 , where they found the grazing plains of the interior. Following their discovery, Macquarie ordered the establishment of Bathurst, Australia's first inland city. He appointed John Oxley as surveyor-general and sent him on expeditions up the coast of New South Wales and inland to find new rivers and new lands for settlement.
Macquarie believed that former convicts, the emancipists, had paid their debt to society and were entitled to be treated no differently from other settlers. This, and his favourable treatment of actual convicts was treated with disdain by some powerful settlers who made representations to London. His approach to Aborigines and those seen as lax morally was sympathetic and liberal.
On 5 January 1819, an English judge, John Thomas Bigge was dispatched to inquire into Macquarie's actions in the colony. Bigge felt that the convicts should be subject to stricter discipline and harsher punishment, and that the emancipists should not be treated so well. As N.D McLachlan observes in The Australian Dictionary of Biography: " Certainly no other Governor was so popular with both emancipist and convict.''
As a result of the inquiry and Bigge's report, Macquarie was forced to resign his commission and return to England to defend his administration. He criticised Macquarie's public works programme.
Macquarie resigned his commission and return to England to defend his administration.
The Bigge report was not all bad, recommending for example the involvement of locals in the future governance of the colony.