Arthur Phillip

Arthur Phillip (1738 - 1814)

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Admiral Arthur Phillip
Born in Allhallows, London, Englandmap
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married (to before ) [location unknown]
Husband of — married [location unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Bath, Somerset, England, United Kingdommap
Profile last modified | Created 23 Feb 2015
This page has been accessed 588 times.

Categories: HMS Supply, sailed May 13, 1787 | British Admirals | HMS Buckingham (1751) | HMS Stirling Castle (1742) | HMS Egmont (1768) | HMS Europa (1765) | HMS Sirius (1786) | Colony of New South Wales Governors | Governors of New South Wales | Australian Notables | British Notables.

Arthur Phillip is notable.
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Preceded by
No previous Governor
1st Governor of New South Wales
7 Feb 1788 to 10 Dec 1792 Badge of the Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Captain John Hunter RN


Arthur Phillip was born on 11 October 1738 in the parish of Allhallows, ward of Bread Street, London, England.[1]

Arthur was the second child of Jacob Phillip, a language teacher who came to London from Frankfurt, and Elizabeth, née Breach, former wife of Captain Herbert, R.N., a relative of Lord Pembroke.[1]

Arthur's marriage to Margaret, the widow of John Denison, a prosperous London merchant. was celebrated on 19 July 1763. He settled with his wife on properties known as Vernals Farm and Glasshayes which he acquired at Lyndhurst, Hampshire. By 1769 Arthur was separated from his wife.[1]

Arthur was appointed the first governor of New South Wales on 12 October 1786. The First Fleet left England on 13 May 1787 and arrived at Botany Bay on 18 January 1788 after a voyage whose success owed much to Phillip's care. On 26 January, at Port Jackson,1030 persons went ashore, of whom 736 were convicts, including 188 women, the rest marines and civil officers, 27 with wives, and 37 children.[1]

Phillip's first and second Commissions, dated 12 October 1786 and 2 April 1787, appointed him as the representative of the Crown in an area embracing roughly the eastern half of Australia together with adjacent Pacific islands. His responsibility was solely to his superiors in London and he was expected to carry out their orders as embodied in his first Instructions of 25 April 1787, his second Instructions of 20 August 1789 and official dispatches. Within these limits his powers were absolute. The Crown vested him with complete authority over the inhabitants and gave him the right to promulgate regulations touching practically all aspects of their lives. He combined executive and legislative functions and could remit sentences imposed by the Civil and Criminal Courts established under a warrant issued on 2 April 1787.

Between 1788 and 1792 about 3546 male and 766 female convicts were landed at Port Jackson and handed over by the contractors to the governor, who faced the task of deciding how their sentences were to be served. Anxious to keep costs low the British government insisted that they be disposed of in such a way as to involve the Treasury in a minimum of expenditure. Previously, in the American colonies, settlers had taken them into employment, but in the absence of private employers in New South Wales most convicts remained in government hands throughout the first five years, and upon Phillip devolved the responsibility for directing their energies. The task was not made easier by the characteristics of the convicts themselves. Historians no longer regard them as the innocent victims of adverse social conditions and a harsh penal code. In dispelling this myth recent research has presented them as including a high proportion of professional criminals drawn from the more worthless element in society. Certainly they were for the most part unfit subjects for an experiment in colonization. Not unnaturally they resented being wrenched from their homeland and taken to a harsh, hostile and uncivilized land. Phillip found them lazy and anxious to escape work by any means possible. Few were mechanics or knew anything of agriculture, and each of the fleets that arrived up to 1792 contained a high proportion of aged and sick who were unfit for work. Worst of all was the Second Fleet which arrived in June 1790 after losing more than a quarter of its 'passengers' en route through sickness. Phillip's reports on the unscrupulous behaviour of the private contractors helped to produce improvements, but not until after the Third Fleet had arrived bearing convicts whose physical condition appalled him once more.

He discovered the Hawkesbury River and gained detailed knowledge about the area between it and Port Jackson, including the Parramatta district. He then moved many of the convicts to Parramatta from late 1788 onwards, after the shortcomings of Sydney for agricultural purposes had become apparent, and named Sydney and Rose Hill in Parramatta. He established public farms at Farm Cove, Parramatta and Toongabbie.[1]

"Before leaving England he had stated his opposition to the death penalty save for murder and sodomy, which crimes he felt best punished by handing guilty persons over to be eaten by 'the natives of New Zealand'."[1]

On 11 December 1792 Phillip sailed for England in the Atlantic to seek medical attention for a pain in his side which had involved him in constant suffering, medical advice compelled him formally to resign on 23 July 1793.[1]

Arthur Phillip died on 31 August 1814 three months after receiving his last promotion to admiral of the Blue. He was buried in the church of St Nicholas, Bathampton, and a memorial to him is in Bath Abbey.[1]

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 B H Fletcher, "Phillip, Arthur (1738–1814)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, (This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967), Web ( : accessed 23 February 2015).

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Images: 2
Plaque commemorating the First Fleet
Plaque commemorating the First Fleet

Sally Port, Portsmouth
Sally Port, Portsmouth


On 21 Jan 2018 at 13:09 GMT John Andrewartha wrote:

Edit bot changed from = -

[[Category: HMS Supply, sailed May 1787]] = to = + [[Category: HMS Supply 1787]] = but the fleet = arrived at Botany Bay on 18 January 1788 after a voyage = Therefore the Cat: needs to read 1788 = cheers - john.a - - -

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