Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Emergence of New England public figure

Sir George Gipps was Governor of the colony of NSW for eight years between 1838 and 1846.  Jim Belshaw continues the story of Terrible Vale, the Taylors and the early days of the New England pastoral industry.
Alexander Macleay was not the only Northern member elected to the Legislative Council in that first NSW election of June 1843 so vividly described by sixteen year old Annabella Innes. Two other Northern representatives were also elected, both for districts centered on the Hunter.

One was Richard Windeyer, another prominent name in the early history of NSW. The second was someone I have talked about before, William Dumaresq, one of the two brothers who left their name imprinted on Armidale.

I do not think that either William Tydd Taylor or his wife Margaretta came down to Port Macquarie for the election. Certainly Annabella did not mention them. However, William Taylor was now becoming a prominent public figure in his own right, a standing that would later see him elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly as the second member for New England.

Soon after his arrival at Port Macquarie in 1840, Taylor had been appointed a magistrate. While the first paid magistrate in New South Wales, D'Arcy Wentworth, had been appointed in 1810, much judicial work was still carried out by what were in fact unpaid volunteers.

With Commissioner George James Macdonald some distance away in Armidale, William Taylor became the figure of authority in the southern part of the New England Tablelands. The role wasn’t always easy, for it involved the administration of justice in what was still in many ways a penal colony.

In 1845, Governor Gipps appointed William Taylor as councilor for the District of Macquarie. The Constitution Act of 1842 that had created a partially elected Legislative Council also provided for the creation of district councils to raise rates and undertake various local government activities.

This proposal proved immensely unpopular. The colony was still recovering from a depression that had adversely affected Government revenues, as well as private fortunes.

Governor Gipps was an advocate of free immigration. Subsidised immigration schemes were established, funded from the proceeds of land sales. Among those who came were New England’s first German settlers, another thread in our story.

Immigration peaked just as depression gripped and land sales collapsed. The Gipps administration, faced with almost £1,000,000 in immigration orders that it could not pay for, struggled to find funds.

In these circumstances landowners considered, accurately enough, that the district councils were simply another way of funding government activities and therefore resisted with vigour.

Unable to proceed with the formation of the councils as planned, the Governor legislated for their creation and then appointed councilors including William Taylor.

In many cases, the newly appointed councils simply refused to meet and, in the end, this first attempt to create local government collapsed. Local government as we know it today was still decades away.   

At this point, we do not know if the Macquarie District Council ever met or, if it did meet, just what it did. William Taylor was closely aligned with the landowning interests opposing the creation of the councils, so it is quite possible that the Macquarie Council remained an entity in name alone.
 Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 20 July 2016. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016.

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