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Lieutenant-General Sir Edward MACARTHUR, KCB

MACARTHUR, Sir EDWARD (1789-1872), was born on 16 March 1789 at Bath, England, the eldest son of Captain John Macarthur a pioneer of the Australian wool industry). 

He went to Sydney with his parents in 1790 and spent his boyhood there and at Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta. 

Sent to England in 1799 to be educated he returned to Sydney in 1806. With his father he took part in the deposition of Governor Bligh in 1808. 

He soon left for London taking his father's version of the rebellion and the first bale of Merino wool to be exported from the colony. 

He obtained a commission in the 60th Regiment and served at Corunna and in Sicily.

 As a lieutenant in the 39th Regiment he took part in Wellington's campaigns of 1812-14 and was present at Vittoria, the Pyrenees and the battles in southern France. After brief service in Canada he joined the army of occupation in France.

While visiting New South Wales on business in 1824 Macarthur was impressed by the dispersion of the garrison from Moreton Bay to Hobart Town in the face of runaway convicts and 'hostile tribes'. In 1825 he placed detailed proposals before the Colonial Office for a citizen military force but the plan was rejected by Governor Darling in 1827. Macarthur competently represented Australian interests in London. After serving as secretary in the Lord Chamberlain's Office in 1843-46 he was on the military staff in Ireland. 

In 1851 he was posted to Sydney as deputy adjutant-general. Promoted colonel in 1854, he moved with the headquarters to Melbourne. He accompanied the commander-in-chief, Major General Sir Robert Nickle, to Eureka on 5 December. They talked freely with the miners and as a result of their investigations Nickle advised that martial law be withdrawn.

After Nickle died in May 1855 and Governor Hotham in December, Macarthur took over command of the forces and became
administrator of the colony. He inherited a confused political situation and was coolly received by the press. However, his impartiality and his willingness to leave things to his ministers helped him, and when he handed over to Sir Henry Barkly on 23 December 1856 he had won the esteem of parliament and the people of Melbourne. 

He was described as if not a brilliant statesman, an industrious, kind-hearted, Christian gentleman. In 1858 Macarthur chaired a royal commission on the defences of the colony. In 1860 he returned to England and was appointed K.C.B. in 1862. Promoted lieut-general in 1866, he died childless in London on 4 January 1872.

A. J. HILL [5:122-31


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces