Gawler, George (DNB00)

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GAWLER, GEORGE (1796–1869), governor of South Australia, son of Samuel Gawler, captain of the 73rd regiment, was born in 1796, educated at the military college, Great Marlow, and entered the army 4 Oct. 1810. He served with the 52nd light infantry through the Peninsular campaign from Nov. 1811 to the end, being wounded at Badajoz and San Munos. At Waterloo, he led the right company of his regiment, and attained the rank of colonel. In 1833 he contributed to ‘The United Service Journal,’ part ii., a paper ‘The Crisis and Close of the Action at Waterloo, by an Eye-Witness,’ which was re-issued as a pamphlet (Dublin, 1833), and caused great controversy. Gawler contended that his own regiment (the 52nd), supported by the rest of Adams's brigade, and not the guards, defeated Napoleon's final attack. Gawler defended his contention against Sir Hussey Vivian in ‘The United Service Journal’ for 1833, and was corroborated by W. Leeke in his ‘Lord Seaton's Regiment at Waterloo,’ 1866. On 12 Oct. 1838 he became governor of the newly founded colony of South Australia, then in considerable difficulties owing to dissensions between the late governor, Captain Hindmarsh, and the resident commissioner of the South Australian Colonisation Society. Gawler was himself made resident commissioner by the Colonisation Society. Embarrassments followed. The Wakefield system, upon which the colony was supposed to be founded, aimed at an equality between the labourers emigrating and the demand for their services. Gawler, by undertaking large public works, concentrated the labourers in Adelaide, and prevented the settlers from obtaining their aid. A consequent diminution in the sources of revenue accompanied an increase in expenditure. By the end of 1840 the financial position of the colony looked critical, and the home government dishonoured Gawler's drafts. He was recalled, and by a mishap his recall was first announced to him by his successor, George (afterwards Sir George) Grey (13 May 1841).

Gawler returned to England and devoted himself to religious and philanthropic pursuits. He died at Southsea 8 May 1869.

[South Australian Register, 1840–1; Rusden's Australia; Heaton's Australian Dict. of Dates; Stow's South Australia; South Australian, 1838–1841; Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, 15 May 1869.]

E. C. K. G.