Australia in the 1810s


An emancipist was a convict who had been given an absolute or conditional pardon or whose sentences had expired. They could own land and were subject to the same rights as free settlers. Initially Governor Macquarie elevated four notable colonists to the level of emancipist: D'Arcy Wentworth, principal surgeon; William Redfern, assistant surgeon; Andrew Thompson, farmer and landowner; and Simeon Lord, successful merchant.

This emancipist policy was rejected by the 'exclusives', including military and free settlers such as John Macarthur and the Supreme Court Judge, Jeffery Bent, who refused to allow former convict lawyers to appear before him. Many conservative naval and army officers who had received large land grants, such as John Macarthur, acted to protect their privileges, complaining to the Colonial Office about Macquarie's pro-emancipist policies. These views received considerable sympathy at the Colonial Office in England.

When Macquarie invited emancipists to Government House for official and social occasions, many exclusives including men from his own regiment refused to attend. Convicts far outweighed the number of free settlers and Macquarie recognised that he needed their skills to realise his vision for a substantial and self-sufficient community.

As a result of Macquarie's open policy to emancipists, many acquired senior positions and became influential members of society. One such emancipist was Francis Greenway, the colonial architect responsible for St Matthew's Church built in Windsor and St James' Church erected in Sydney. Other emancipists from this period include Isaac Nichols, who was appointed as the first postmaster in Sydney, and Simeon Lord and Andrew Thompson, who were appointed as magistrates. Another emancipist who was highly valued by the free settlers was Dr William Redfern, the assistant surgeon at the Sydney General Hospital. He became the family doctor of the Macarthur family and of Governor Macquarie's family.


A snapshot of 1818

  • January
    • Celebrations were held on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the colony.

  • March
    • Samuel Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services had been dispensed with.

  • May
    • A regular mail service started operating between Hobart Town and Launceston.

  • June
    • The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was formed under Government Macquarie's patronage.

  • November
    • A lantern was lit for the first time at the Macquarie Tower lighthouse at South Head.
    • John Oxley names Castlereagh, the Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, and crossed the Great Dividing Range to reach Port Macquarie.
    • The legendary Aboriginal tracker Bundle and another Aboriginal man, Broughton, accompanied Charles Throsby on an expedition south.


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