ARTHUR PHILLIP, FOUNDER AND FIRST GOVERNOR OF NEW SOUTH WALES.
Captain Cook’s “discovery” of New Holland was turned to no account until a generation later, and to Sir Joseph Banks more than to any other man belongs the credit of the suggestion. In 1779 a commission of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire into the question of transportation, then, in consequence of the loss of the American colonies, an important problem needing a speedy solution. At this period, indeed up to a much later time, the English prison administration was notoriously bad. The gaols were crowded and filthy, and there was no discipline; no system governed them other than the system of rascality practised by many of the gaolers.
Mr. Banks (as he then was) gave evidence before the House of Commons, and strongly urged the establishment of a penal colony at Botany Bay, giving his opinion, of course, as the botanist who had accompanied Cook and had seen what prospect there was of establishing a settlement at New Holland. Banks from this time till his death took a keen interest in the New South Wales colonizing scheme, and had much influence for good in the future of the colony. He was a man of independent means, and there is not the slightest reason nor the least evidence to the contrary, to doubt his perfect disinterestedness in all that he did. But when President of the Royal Society the caricaturists and the satirists had little mercy on him, believing him more courtier than scientist. Peter Pindar’s Sir Joseph Banks and the Emperor of Morocco is only one of the many satires of which Banks was the principal victim.
The proposals of one Jean Maria Matra and of Admiral Sir George Young for forming new colonies to take the places of those lost to us in America, with the evidence and subsequent advocacy of Banks, ultimately led to the Government’s decision to colonize New South Wales. But it was not until 1786 that that decision was reached, and a year later still when Captain Arthur Phillip was given a commission as captain of the expedition and governor of the new colony.
All that is known of Phillip prior to his appointment is contained in a semi—official account of the expedition called Phillip’s Voyage, published about a hundred years ago. We are here told that his father was a German teacher of languages who settled in London, his mother the widow of Captain Herbert, of the royal navy, and that young Phillip was born in Bread Street, in the parish of All Hallows, London.
It may be presumed that, by the influence of his mother’s connections through her first marriage, he was sent to Greenwich School, and thence into the navy, where he began his career under Captain Michael Everett at the outbreak of war in 1755.